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India looking to make amends

April 01, 2005 16:35 IST

India will be looking to buck a mini losing streak against arch-rivals Pakistan and also bounce back from the Bangalore Test debacle in the first of six One-Day Internationals in Kochi on Saturday.

Sourav Ganguly and his men lost their last four one-dayers to Pakistan, and the numbing loss in the third and final Test should be the right fuel to fire their motivational levels.

Vice-captain Rahul Dravid, one of India's most consistent batsmen along with Virender Sehwag, fired the warning shot, saying the hosts would come back hard at the Pakistanis.

Dravid said the Test series, drawn 1-1, is a thing of the past and the one-day series would be a new battle, fought with full vigour.

"It is a little disappointing to lose the last Test, but that is over. We can put up a good performance in the one-day series," he said.

Winning the six-match series would also be a nice farewell gift for John Wright, India's first foreign coach.

The New Zealander will be handing over the reins after a memorable four-year stint that began in 2001.

Wright is expected to guide the team till the end of the season, closing with the scheduled five-match one-day series against the visiting Sri Lankans.

Ganguly, struggling to find batting form right through the Test series, has a point or two to prove with his critics, who talked about a change in leadership following the loss in Bangalore.

He, however, will have to address his personal form first before he talks about the team's fortunes.

The selectors have thrown more than a hint about their thinking by excluding the talented VVS Laxman from the one-day squad. With only two years to go for the 2007 World Cup, injecting fresh blood will be the primary motto of the five wise men.

And with lack of runs, the 33-year-old Ganguly has the guillotine hanging over his head.

On the field, India's major worry has nothing to do with themselves but with Pakistan's batting.

The Indians might have finally found a match for their world-class middle order in a line-up featuring Younis Khan, Yousuf Youhana, Inzamam-ul Haq and Asim Kamal followed by allrounder Abdul Razzaq and wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran Akmal.

If anything, Pakistan has a more potent batting with a solid opening pair.

Salman Butt will need no introduction after his classy century in the BCCI Platinum Jubilee one-dayer in Kolkata. Nor does Shahid Afridi, who is a menace to the bowlers.

And the team management has yet to find a place for Shoaib Malik, the off-spinner all-rounder, who floats in the batting order and stings like a bee.

As it is, the flat tracks and hard outfields of the Indian grounds would add to the misery of the bowlers. With all the matches being day affairs, the reverse swing skill would play a crucial role.

Again, Pakistan would be better off after Mohammad Sami proved more than a handful for the Indians in Bangalore.

Sami showed in the series decider that he had finally emerged from the shadows of his celebrity teammate Shoaib Akhtar.

With leg-spinner Danish Kaneria at the other end, the Pakistani pair reminded cricket fans of the Great Australian combo of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

The Indians, on the other hand, have a few worries going into the one-day series. The form of Irfan Pathan will be on the top of the agenda after the 20-year-old's patchy display in the Test series.

The successful return of Laxmipathy Balaji should be a positive sign but the 22-year-old Tamil Nadu pacer looked lost when the Pakistani big guns got going in the second innings of the final Test.

With the shorter version of the game being a batsman's party, the intelligent handling of the bowling resources will be the key.

That again brings us back to how Ganguly handles the challenge.

Both the captains would be well aware that the wicket at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium is a virgin track and that a limited-overs game is being played at the venue after more than three years.

The pitch was laid seven years ago for the match against Australia in 1998 and then re-laid for the infamous tie against South Africa in 2000, which later came under the match-fixing cloud.

India won both the matches. The hosts' last match at the venue was against Zimbabwe in 2001.

The teams (from):

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, Mohammad Sami, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Danish Kaneria, Arshad Khan and Shoaib Malik.

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

Umpires: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) and A V Jayaprakash (India).

Third Umpire: I Shivram (India).

Match Referee: Chris Broad (England).

Match timings: 9.00 to 12.30 hrs; 13.15 to 16.45 hrs.

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