Upbeat India ready to slay Pak
The archrivals clash again, this time for 2 matches at Abu Dhabi starting today.india Updated: Apr 18, 2006 15:27 IST
Fresh from a resounding victory over England, an upbeat India will begin a two-match one-day series against arch rivals Pakistan on Monday with the poor form of seniors Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif continuing to be a cause of concern.
The struggling duo were rested for the last match in Indore and the team management, desperate to get them out of the prolonged slump, will be hoping that the desert venue will help them to turn the corner.
With Karnataka opener Robin Uthappa making a memorable debut, the pressure will be on Sehwag to deliver the goods as another failure could force the team management to eventually show the door to the Delhi swashbuckler.
The Indians have hardly had any time to savour their 5-1 triumph over England, flying in here the very morning after the seventh and final match in Indore on Saturday.
The whiff of victory was still hanging heavy, evident in the confident stride of the players as they readied to renew their famous rivalry, albeit at a new venue in the UAE -- the Zayed Stadium which would be hosting its first ever ODI.
Hopefully, the new ground and new city will help the Indian team bury the ghosts of Sharjah which had been unkind to them -- be it Javed Miandad's six off the last ball or the controversial leg before decisions or the partisan crowds.
However, it should not be problem for this young Indian team to look ahead and not back since not many in the present line-up carry the burden of those humiliating defeats handed out to them by Pakistan who enjoy an enviable record of winning 18 of the 24 matches against their arch rivals in the off-shore venue of Sharjah.
But a new city and a new ground means India would start on a clean slate and keen to write history afresh.
With the kind of form that Rahul Dravid's men have shown in the shorter version of the game of late, which includes a 4-1 drubbing of Pakistan in Pakistan, it should not be surprise if the Indians run away with the glittering DLF Cup.
Although the cause is for charity, the teams are expected to show least of it to one another with Dravid making it clear that the team did not want to break its winning habit and rival skipper Inzamam-ul Haq revealing his desperation to make amends for the disaster at home early this year.
The proceeds from the first game would go towards relief of earthquake victims in India and Pakistan while profits from the second match would be shared by the two cricket boards.
India, playing their first match in six years in the Emirates which thay had shunned after the match fixing scandal rocked the cricketing world in 2000, are however, not without their share of problems which mainly concerns the poor form of Sehwag and Kaif.
But with Dravid himself in regal form and the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina in the ranks, batting does not look to be much of a problem for the men in blue.
That goes for bowling as well-- Irfan Pathan with his knack of getting early wickets has been supported well by Kerala seamer S Sreesanth although R P Singh and Munaf Patel have yet to come to the party.
Pakistan also come into this short series, both matches of which would be day/night affairs, riding high on confidence following their clean sweep of Sri Lanka.
In fact, the one-day series defeat to India has been the only real blip in what has otherwise been a splendid season for Bob Woolmer's team.
Shoaib Akhtar would be missed but Pakistan's latest revelation -- swing bowler Mohammad Asif has been ruffling quite a few feathers with his lethal bowling.
Woolmer admitted India were on a roll at the moment but reposed faith in his side to see off the challenge posed by their arch rivals.
"Obviously India are not an easy team to beat. They are playing well at the moment but we have the players to match them in every department of the game," said the Englishman after his team's practice yesterday.
The track at the swanky Zayed Stadium promises to offer help to both batsmen and bowlers as the curators have worked hard to ensure a sporting track for the matches expected to be watched by a sell-out crowd.
India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Irfan Pathan, Venugopal Rao, Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Robin Uthappa.
Pakistan: Inzamam-ul Haq (captain), Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Kamran Akmal (wicketkeeper), Shahid Afridi, Danish Kaneria, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Asif, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Rana Naved-ul Hasan, Faisal Iqbal, Abdul Rehman.