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We want to win in Pakistan: Ganguly

"We are here to play well. We want to make friends in Pakistan, but our focus will be to win on the field," the Indian cricket captain said.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2004 00:51 IST

India's cricket captain Sourav Ganguly vowed Wednesday to make his nation's first Test tour of Pakistan in 15 years a successful one, both on and off the field.

"We are here to play well," Ganguly told AFP in an interview, soon after his 15-man squad touched down in this eastern city for the ice-breaking 40-day tour.

"We want to make friends in Pakistan, but our focus will be to win on the field," he said, brushing aside any security concerns for the team.

"We would not be here if the government had any worries about our safety."

India begin the tour with a warm-up match here on Thursday before the first of five one-day internationals gets underway in the southern port city of Karachi on Saturday.

"Pakistan is obviously a special tour because we have not played here for a long time. But once the matches start, cricket will be the key and we do not want to finish second-best."

Ganguly said the team was delighted at meeting Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee before the team's departure from New Delhi earlier on Wednesday.

"It's not everyday that we meet the prime minister, so it was a very special moment for all of us," the Indian captain said.

"He encouraged us to not only try and win matches, but also win friends. We will do that ... We are ambassadors of our country whenever we travel abroad to play."

Ganguly, a stylish left-hand batsman, said he was not concerned about India's poor track record in Pakistan, where they have not registered a Test win in 20 previous attempts.

India have also not won a Test series outside the sub-continent since beating England in 1986 under Kapil Dev.

"History does not worry me," Ganguly said. "It has been a long time since we played a Test in Pakistan. In fact, Sachin (Tendulkar) is the only one in our team to have played a Test here, in 1989.

"This is a new set of players, a young team, just like Pakistan have," he said.

"I am encouraged by the way we have played over the last few years and the recent tour of Australia gave us confidence of doing well in all conditions.

"This tour of Pakistan is a major tour, but it is not the ultimate test. It can't get tougher than the Australian tour or the World Cup and we did very well in both."

India reached the World Cup final in South Africa a year ago and held formidable Australia to a 1-1 draw in the four-Test series down under earlier this year.

Later at an overcrowded media conference here, Ganguly said his team was happy to be in Pakistan and keen to play positive and exciting cricket.

"The boys are excited at the opportunity of playing here. I am sure the crowds will like the way we play.

"I do not believe in any team being favourites. In an one-day international it depends on how well a side plays on a particular day. In a Test, it is the five days that matter," he said.

"It is important to win the series and equally important to play our part in the goodwill issue.

"I feel this team has a great opportunity to achieve what no other Indian team has been able to do in Pakistan."

Asked how the Indians plan to tackle fiery fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, who is nicknamed the Rawalpindi Express, Ganguly said: "We will try to pull the chain and stop the train midway."

India begin the tour with a warm-up match here on Thursday before the first of five one-day internationals gets underway in the southern port city of Karachi on Saturday.

The one-day series, which ends on March 24, will be followed by three Test matches at Multan, Lahore and Rawalpindi.

First Published: Mar 11, 2004 00:51 IST