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'Heat will pose a challenge'

April 04, 2005 13:09 IST

With the fluent win at Kochi providing a rocketing start to their one-day campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan, India seem to have quickly laid to rest the morale-shattering loss in the Bangalore Test and would be keyed up to consolidate the advantage with another good show in the second match in Visakhapatnam on Tuesday.

As the hosts' famed batting line up fell like nine pins under three sessions in Bangalore, there was much talk of the visitors having the psychological advantage ahead of the one-day battle.

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But the pendulum has swung back after India's convincing 87-run victory at Kochi, with Pakistan now being under pressure to raise their game and take on a resurgent India in the second game of the six-match series.

"The mood in the team is good. We were understandably disappointed after Bangalore but then we have bounced back a bit after Kochi," India vice-captain Rahul Dravid said.

Dravid, however, expects Pakistan to put up a much better show in tomorrow's match.

"I have full respect for Pakistan. They are a quality side they are going to come back hard at us."

The match would also see a new addition to the growing list of one-day venues in India, with the picturesque HCA-VDCA ground on the outskirts of this port city all geared up for the high-profile clash between the two sides which always send passion soaring not only across the border but also in other parts of the world.

The oppressive heat, with humidity crossing 90 per cent, is bound to make the game a test of fitness and endurance and the day will belong to the side that shows greater resilience.

"The heat poses a good challenge. Players have to be smart in the way they manage these conditions and the side which manages the conditions better will emerge as the winner," Dravid said.

The Indian batting would once again look up to wonderboy Virender Sehwag, who is going through a fairy tale phase of his career, with the Kochi hundred coming as an icing on the cake after the twin tons in the Test series.

The Delhi opener continues to flatter his supporters and puzzle his cricketing foes with his breathtaking and audacious strokeplay and once again needs to take up the mantle to give an aggressive start to the Indian innings.

Dravid, the other centurion at Kochi, is also in fine form, and can be relied upon to rise up to his 'Mr Dependable' tag.

The hunger for runs must be paramount in the mind of superstar Sachin Tendulkar, who would be too willing to let his blade do the talking after getting out cheaply in the first one-dayer.

But the batsman whose performance would be put to the scanner is none other than the India skipper himself. Having finished the Test series with an appalling average of 9.60 and the first ball duck at Kochi -- where his leg stump went cartwheeling -- has only raised to a shrill pitch the cry for the left hander's scalp.

The lack of runs from his bat must be giving agonising moments to Ganguly, just 64 short of completing 10,000 runs, and yet another lacklustre performance may endanger his position in the side.

But Dravid said Ganguly's repeated failures has not put any undue pressure on the team.

"It [Ganguly's poor form] is not posing any pressure on the team. Sourav has not been getting runs of late but surely he will come back sooner or later."

Also of concern to the Indian team management is the failure of the middle and lower-middle order batsmen to speed up things after the perfect launch pad provided by the 201-run third wicket stand between Dravid and Sehwag.

Coach John Wright would be hoping for an improved display from the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif.

The Indian bowlers, on the other hand, must be high on confidence after their showing two days back.

While pacers Laxmipathy Balaji, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra did a decent job at Kochi taking Pakistan wickets at regular intervals, it was Tendulkar (5 for 50) who compensated for his failure with the willow.

The surrender of the top order, that plagued Pakistan in the opening Test at Mohali, revisited the tourists at Kochi, and one wonders whether the side would have been better served by Shahid Afridi an opener in place of Kamran Akmal.

The Pakistan batsmen, who have given a good account of themselves in the tour so far, with the likes of captain Inzamam-ul Haq, Younis Khan and Yousuf Youhana not letting the Indian bowlers get on top, would be intent on upping their ante.

Pakistan would be eagerly awaiting for the return of vice-captain Younis Khan who proved the nemesis for the Indian bowlers in the Test series.

"I'm better. I've been attending the nets for the last two days but whether I will play will be decided only tonight," he told reporters.

Spinner Arshad Khan finished with his career-best figures of 4 for 33 at Kochi, and along with leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, who has impressed one and all during the tour, has boosted the confidence of the supporters back home in the ability of slow bowlers.

With the track having little grass, Pakistan would most likely retain the double spin attack.

In the pace department, Naved-ul-Hasan Rana pushed India onto the backfoot by taking the prized wickets of Tendulkar and Ganguly off consecutive balls, and the Pakistan team would be looking to another good spell from him.

Despite going wicketless at Kochi, Mohammad Sami has bowled well so far in the tour, and has repeatedly caused a few worries to the Indian batsmen.

The visitors believe that the toss will play a vital role in the match. "The toss is very crucial and whoever wins the toss will have a little bit of edge," said Younis Khan.

Curator P R Viswanath said the wicket would offer assistance to both the batsmen and bowlers.

"But ultimately how the wicket will play, will depend on the heat. It is the heat which will determine whether the wicket will be the same in the latter part of the day as in the morning," he said.

The teams:

Pakistan: Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Younis Khan (vice-captain), Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Yousuf Youhana, Asim Kamal, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Nazir, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan Rana, Mohammad Sami, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Danish Kaneria, Arshad Khan and Shoaib Malik.

India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Rahul Dravid (vice-captain), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Dinesh Mongia, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Laxmipathy Balaji, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik.

Umpires: Billy Bowden and A V Jayprakash

Third umpire: I V Shivram; Fourth umpire: Francis Gomes

Match referee: Chris Broad.

Hours of Play: 9 am to 12-30 pm; 1-15 pm to 4-45 pm.