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Team India under pressure to deliver

Although Shoaib was ruled out, Inzy has options from his bowling repertoire.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 14:27 IST

A beleaguered India go into the second ODI in Rawalpindi on Saturday with its threadbare bowling attack under enormous pressure to stop the Pakistani juggernaut and square the series.

Bogged down by bowling worries, rendered worse by the finger injury to off-spinner Harabhajan Singh, the Indian think tank was left grappling to find ways to discover their winning ways again.

Although Pakistan also suffered a huge blow on the eve of the match after an unfit pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar was ruled out of what could have been his home game, Inzamam-ul Haq has enough options to choose from his bowling repertoire.

That the hosts won the first game in Peshawar without the 'Rawalpindi Express' speaks volumes about the bowling reserves of Pakistan.

India, in contrast, have been exposed thoroughly on the bowling front and it seems even if they rattle up a total in excess of 300, they might end up losing the game due to their bowlers' inability to snap up 10 wickets.

Things have become hot on the war of words between the two camps as well. Inzamam has accused the Indians of "un-sportsmanlike" action in appealing against him when he obstructed the field in the first ODI.

This was rebutted by Indian skipper Rahul Dravid through a media statement yesterday that the Indians could not be accused of having acted against the spirit of the game.

Dravid said he had got this confirmed from match referee Chris Broad and the two umpires -- Simon Taufel and Asad Rauf -- who officiated in the match.

With former players from the respective countries joining in the hot debate, the stage has been set for another no-holds barred battle between the two sides on what promises to be another batting pitch at the Pindi Stadium.

The pendulum has shifted the home team's way ever since they rallied brilliantly from a sorry-reading 39 for 6 to turn things around in their favour in the series-deciding Test at Karachi.

The Test series victory over their archrivals, which came after a wait of almost two decades, seemed to have galvanised the Pakistan team into a formidable one and the victory by the D/L Method in the first ODI at Peshawar has only made the hosts more buoyant.

The Indians need to buckle down to the arduous task with determination or they can very well kiss goodbye to the chances of winning the five-match ODI series too.

The most heartening thing for the Indians is the return to form of champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar who showed fine touch in his knock of 100 after starting very cautiously in Peshawar.

The knock came on the heels of his poor run of scores in the Test series and should give the Indian camp a lot to be enthused about as he is one batsman the Pakistani bowlers fear the most.

Tendulkar's ability to rotate the strike and give more of it to young Irfan Pathan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni was one of the brighter spots on an otherwise gloomy day in Peshawar.

The ace batsman has happy memories of this ground too, having scored a magnificent 141, albeit for a losing cause, when India chased Pakistan's 329 for 6, the highest-ever score made here, and lost narrowly to be 1-2 down in the series in March 2004 before winning the last two ties to clinch it 3-2.

What the Indians would and must be eager to do is not to throw away another good start by losing wickets in the end overs and as was the case in the opening encounter when they lost way from 266 for 3 in 40 overs to finally muster 328, losing all their wickets in the process.

The tourists would be hoping for another big contribution from the Mumbai maestro, this time for a winning and series-levelling cause.

India have quite a few worries on the bowling front, going into the tie which is the second one to be played between the two countries at this venue.

The biggest anxiety is Harbhajan's injury which has all but ruled him out of the match here too unless there is dramatic improvement within the next 24 hours.

Ramesh Powar, the stocky Mumbai off spinner, has been brought here as cover for Harbhajan and could play in the match if India decide to opt for two spinners and omit one of the four medium pacers who played at Peshawar.

S Sreesanth, who played in the first ODI, was down with sore throat and fever after reaching Islamabad where the team is staying and might give way to Powar. He was expensive in the first match too.

Dravid has already admitted that the bowlers should do better than they have done so far on the tour, and unless the bowlers deliver the goods even a plus-300 score would not be able to clinch a win as the Pakistan team bats deep down the order.

The Indian bowlers struggled for the major part of the Pakistan run-chase at Peshawar on a shirtfront of a wicket with none able to make a big impression in the first 30 overs.

The redeeming part was they came back towards the end in poor light conditions to reduce the hosts from 201 for one to 299 for 7 after the great start provided by Salman Butt and Shoaib Malik who put on 151 runs only in 23.4 overs.

Dravid preferred to bowl Pathan for a straight ten-over spell but this limited his options in the end overs with the other bowlers not making any impression on the strong Pak batting line-up during the middle of the innings.

But the Indian captain does not have many options except to bring in Rudra Pratap Singh for Zaheer Khan, who went for over 7 an over.

Dravid would also be eager to see that his bowlers complete their overs in time after being docked 20 per cent of his match fees (the team was docked 10 per cent) for India having bowled two overs short in the first ODI, a Level 2 offence as per the ICC's Code of Conduct.

Another infringement of the ICC's rules governing over-rates would invite an even bigger reprimand on the Indian skipper and he would be conscious of this when setting the field and making changes to it here.

The venue is also a happy hunting ground for the hosts who have 12 out of 16 ties played here including the clash against India two years ago.