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Momentum with Pakistan ahead of ODIs

Hosts start as favourites in the one-dayers after their emphatic win in the Karachi Test.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2006 14:44 IST

India and Pakistan went into the series on equal terms, but the hosts have got their nose clearly ahead at the end of three Tests.

Just like the previous time when Pakistan visited India, the momentum after the Test-leg has swung decisively in Pakistan's favour and Rahul Dravid's men begin the limited overs series on the backfoot.

One of the hallmarks of a strong outfit is having more than one player to compete for the same slot in the line up. And that is the case with the current Pakistan team that recovered so spectacularly from the dead to vanquish India by a huge margin in the third and deciding Test in Karachi.

The fact is Pakistan won despite losing the services of its influential and performing captain Inzamam-ul-Haq who was unable to play because of a back pain.

Another person missing from the line up was Shoaib Malik, who had opened the innings with Salman Butt earlier in the series, following the unfortunate death of his father during the Faisalabad Test.

But Pakistan hardly missed these two players as they took on the might of the star-studded Indian line-up with confidence personified, rallied from a hopeless situation of 39 for six and turned the tables on the visitors in stunning fashion.

The fact that Pakistan won with plenty to spare even when two of their regular players were missing from the fray tells its own tale.

And in a squad comprising middle order batsmen like Izamam and the two Ys, vice-captain Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf, besides the swashbuckling Shahid Afridi, the nephew of Javed Miandad would have to sit out of the ODIs if Inzamam is fit to play.

Faisal played his 17th and last one-day international 26 months ago against South Africa in Rawalpindi and has had an indifferent performance to show for till now in the shortened version of the game. He would be doubly keen to seize his chance and cement a place in the team.

The competition has become hot for the openers' slot too, with Butt, all-rounder Malik and Imran Farhat staking a claim.

Malik, being a right-hander, has the edge as a right-left combination would be difficult for the bowlers to attack on one side of the wicket and for rival captain Rahul Dravid to set his field.

Pace bowling spots too are being hotly contested for with Mohammed Asif's stellar match-winning display against India giving him the edge over other claimants to partner Shoaib Akhtar with the new ball.

Kamran Akmal's place as a wicketkeeper-batsman is, however, under no threat with him performing so confidently when the chips were down against the arch-foes.

But he has also said the batting order would depend on strategy and conditions, leading to expectations of some surprises in store similar to the promotion of Irfan Pathan to number three against Sri Lanka.

The momentum has shifted towards Pakistan and it would need India to come up with more than a few batting order changes to catch the rivals napping in the one-day series starting here on Feb 6.

The arrival of one-day specialists— Suresh Raina, Mohd Kaif, Murali Kartik and S Sreeshanth— should dispel the gloom after the Test defeat and perk up the rest to take to the battle with earnest.

The quartet missed the connecting flight from Lahore and are now expected to fly to Islamabad before joining the team from there later on Saturday.

Raina and Kaif, both brilliant fielders inside the 30-yard ring with fast feet, should give the extra edge to fielding too and come here spirits high after guiding Uttar Pradesh to a historic victory in the Ranji Trophy final against Bengal back home.

Kartik, the left arm slow bowler, had done well against Pakistan on occasions in the past, but would really need to settle down into the groove and get the right length to bowl to in-form batsmen like Younis Khan and Mohammed Yousuf.

Sreesanth gives the pace attack the better mix with his high-arm action, but will have to adjust quickly to the cold weather conditions.

First Published: Feb 04, 2006 14:44 IST