Spin, not pace, gives Pak edge

In baseball they say "Good pitching beats good hitting". I tend to think the same principle applies in cricket where good bowling usually prevails over good batting, writes Ian Chappell
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Updated on Mar 13, 2004 12:04 AM IST
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PTI | By Ian Chappell

In baseball they say "Good pitching beats good hitting". I tend to think the same principle applies in cricket where good bowling usually prevails over good batting.

Nevertheless, the theory remains unproven in World Cup matches between India and Pakistan. India hasn't lost any of its four World Cup matches to their great rivals despite Pakistan having the upper hand in bowling each time and on two occasions [1992 & 1999] going on to play in the final of the tournament. I suspect this theory is more relevant in Test matches than ODI series.

In individual match-ups for this five-game series, India has a clear advantage in batting while Pakistan has a slight edge in bowling. The perception that Pakistan is far superior to India in fast bowling is probably a hangover from the Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis era but the margin has narrowed in recent times.

The gap will close even further if Irfan Pathan and Lakshmipathy Balaji continue to display the rapid improvement they made in the VB series.

Surprisingly, the area where Pakistan may establish a useful advantage is in spin bowling where the recall of Saqlain Mushtaq boosts the home side while injuries to Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble has left India a little under-manned.

However, I like what I've heard about Ramesh Powar as a cricketer and potentially Murali Kartik has a lot to offer. If Powar can reproduce his first-class feats he could help India overcome their all-rounder problem.

There's nothing mythical about India's advantage with the bat; a comparison of each team's top six shows the tourists lead in any category you want to name, aggregate, average or strike rate. This will be a difficult obstacle for Pakistan to surmount and it will need a terrific series from both Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami to nullify their advantage.

The captaincy battle will also slightly favour India with Sourav Ganguly being more experienced. Inzamam ul-Haq even misses a golden opportunity most opposing skippers consider "a given" when squaring off against Ganguly, as neither is much good in the field. In Australia, India showed much improved form in fielding, especially catching, and this will help narrow the gap between the bowling attacks.

A summary of the skills favours India to win. However, there's an extra tension created by the heightened security surrounding this tour. In this case the team that copes best with the extra guns and guards will bat, bowl and field better than their opponents.

India's unblemished record against Pakistan in World Cup contests may be the best clue to who might win this battle of nerves.

(Ian Chappell will cover the series exclusively for HT)

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