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Pakistan will be keen to maximise their pace potential

I feel the toll of one-day series has been immense on Pakistan bowlers, writes Harbhajan.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Harbhajan Singh
PUBLISHED ON APR 03, 2004 02:14 PM IST

It is a make-or-break Test for Pakistan in Lahore. They would like to maximise the potential of their pace battery which is the engine which drives them on a cricket field. But I am not sure if Shoaib Akhtar is up to the task. He does not seem to be the same bowler who used to run through the batting line ups of New Zealand or Australia in a matter of a few balls. He mentally looks very tired and does not seem to back himself enough against this Indian line-up. He throws up his hands so often while bowling that it betrays a tormented soul.

In retrospect, I feel the toll of one-day series has been immense on Pakistan bowlers. Indians were regularly picking up 300-plus totals in ODIs and Shoaib had more no-balls, wides and runs than wickets to show in his bowling column. We clearly have not seen the best of Shoaib in this series.

Pakistan might require a bowling coach but for the mistakes they are making you do not need an expert to point it out. They all know what wrongs they have been doing. I am also not sure if a bowling coach, in the middle of a series, could be such a big help.

With bowlers conceding near 700 runs, it is always a tough task for batsmen -- even against Bangladesh, leave along a strong unit like India. As a bowler, you feel liberated with such a bank of runs. You experiment, you attack and in most cases get the help from facing batsmen also who can not help but being cautious.

Indians consistently made early inroads in both Pakistan innings in Multan and Irfan Pathan, who looks a match-winner, was the reason for it.

If you ask me, Virender Sehwag is the main difference in the team of today from the ones we had in the past. He goes ballast from the word go and helps immensely in rattling up the bowlers. Bowlers can get him out but can not keep him quiet. His attack of Saqlain Mushtaq on the first and second day was a piece of tactical brilliance.

Saqlain has been a force against India in the past and might have been purposely held back in ODIs to be let loose on Indians in the Tests. But Viru played him brilliantly, smashing him around the park and throwing the Saqlain Factor out of the window -- possibly for the rest of the series. He has ensured Pakistan attack can at best be only one-dimensional -- I cannot see them trusting a spinner with their attack for the rest of the series.

Viru's triple hundred is the stuff of a legend and it was always on cards after he finished the first day on 228 not out. One believes such a score has not been seen from any Test batsman on a single day in the last 54 years. He has said he never felt Pakistan bowlers could get him out -- even we the viewers never felt Pakistan bowlers stood any chance against him.

Viru's triple is surely going to motivate the rest of the Indian batsmen further. Such feats tend to motivate the rest. It is not a competition but just a healthy spirit to match your fellow professionals. If a bowler takes five wickets, the one at the other end tries to emulate him. It would be the same with the rest of the Indian batters.

Along with Viru, you cannot ignore Anil Kumble either. He has been a bowler I have admired for long and one who has been a great help from the other end. It is difficult to count how many matches he has won for India.

When I started, Kumble appeared to be a bowler who would put 12 balls at one spot all the time. Now he has developed a googly. This new armoury automatically slows up his deliveries and injects doubts in the mind of a batsman.

I have always been very happy bowling alongside him for he dries up the runs from one end and allow me to attack the batsmen from the other. He has now bowled another perfect delivery -- in the form of a son. Congrats to a fellow spinner and an inspiration whose form in the last few matches has been nothing less than sensational.

Finally, it seems Pakistan would be expecting more than 200 per cent from their captain Inzamamul Haq -- the only batsman who potentially has the talent to be a thorn in India's flesh. But if he keeps running between the wickets like he did in Multan -- holding the bat in the wrong hand which stopped him from stretching -- he would cause his team's own destruction.

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