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It's a game of nerves: Zaheer Abbas

Former Pak captain and batting great Zaheer Abbas says the team that controls its nerves and does not panic in crunch situations will triumph in the ongoing series between India and Pakistan.

india Updated: Mar 15, 2004 13:51 IST

Pakistani batting great Zaheer Abbas says the team that controls its nerves and does not panic in crunch situations will triumph in the ongoing series between India and Pakistan.

"It is a game of nerves. Whichever team controls its nerves will win," Zaheer told IANS in an interview.

Dubbed 'Bradman of Asia' for his prolific scoring ability, Zaheer believes that it would be a battle between the strong Indian batting line-up, comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, and Pakistani bowling, spearheaded by pacers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Sami.

"I think it will be a totally batsmen-dominated series," he said, before leaving for India where he will appear on a private television channel as an expert for the series.

"I agree it will be between Indian batting and Pakistan bowling, but I think there is not so much difference between the two bowling attacks," said Zaheer, who scored 5,062 runs at 44.79 in 78 Tests in 1970s and 80s.

"However, India has a very distinct edge in batting. It is to be seen how the Pakistani bowlers bowl to one of the world's best batting line-ups, because that would count a lot," he explained.

India is touring Pakistan on its first full-fledged series in over 14 years and will play five one-day internationals and three Tests in 39 days.

Zaheer, the only Asian batsman to have scored 100 first-class centuries, said India would badly miss experienced leg-spinner Anil Kumble and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.

"Their absence will be felt to a big extent," he said. "Kumble was needed by India in one-dayers also; in Test matches, the conditions will be different. After all, you have to get the other team out."

While Kumble, who has pain in his shoulder, has said that he would recover in time for the Test matches, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has been completely ruled out for the entire series with a finger injury.

Zaheer, who has a special bond with India as his wife Samina comes from Kanpur, pointed out that home conditions would give Pakistan the vital advantage.

"Our boys are playing on home wickets. Crowd support is there, but more than that I think India's weak bowling will make a difference," he said.

"But if India field well, they can make some recovery. In the end, however, nerves will decide the outcome of this series."

Zaheer refused to take seriously the result of the tour-opening warm-up match in which India lost to Pakistan 'A' after piling up 335 at Lahore on March 11, with Rahul Dravid scoring a solid 92.

"No, I don't read too much into the result of the match because a win or loss in that game would not have a bearing on the actual series," he said.

How much difference will Javed Miandad's coaching make to the Pakistani side?

"I hope his coaching makes more difference," he said. "But cricket is not football where the coach controls the game from outside. So far he is doing well."

The ever-smiling Zaheer, who has scored six Test and three one-day centuries against India, said that it was heartening that the cricket relations between the two countries have improved.

"It's a good thing that India and Pakistan are playing matches again," he said. "These matches will help people of the two countries to meet each other - this is the only way to come up."

First Published: Mar 15, 2004 13:51 IST