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Anil Kumble

India are the favourites now

March 23, 2004

India started favourites in this Samsung Cup and now, going into the final game tomorrow, they are once again favourites to win the trophy.

Skipper Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright will stress the importance of this final not just as an opportunity to win some silverware for all the effort and planning that has gone into this series but also for the psychological advantage it would give the team over their opponents going into a very important Test series.

Ganguly will be looking for an encore from his bowlers in the final game. Irfan Pathan hopefully will once again give us early breakthroughs, which have been a feature of his still nascent career. Laxmipathy Balaji and Zaheer Khan have come on well going into the final match and they can make it easier for Murali Kartik and the other bowlers to follow. As scoring runs is all about partnerships, so is bowling in tandem to take wickets and restrict run-making.

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In the first of the double-header in Lahore on Sunday, this Indian team showed the ability to bounce back when the chips are down. The manner in which we achieved the target of 294 runs was pleasing. It was a target that required almost six runs an over from the start. Although we lost early wickets, our batsmen ensured that the required rate was kept in check.

This target also required that our batsmen bat through the 50 overs. In the end, we won quite convincingly with five overs to spare. It required a record sixth wicket partnership between Rahul Dravid and Mohammed Kaif to ensure that the series is still alive.

How often have we witnessed Rahul Dravid holding one end up and achieving a victory for India? Since his first-class debut for Karnataka as an 18 year-old, he has always put a heavy price on his wicket, be it any match. He is a thorough professional in his preparation and his record at the international level is ample proof of this. Over a period of time, he has grown in stature.

Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Kaif have added a new dimension to the Indian batting not just with their youth and exuberance but also their maturity and sense of responsibility. They are letting themselves be counted. Kaif has shown a cool head in the past in pressure situations and it was once again in evidence on Sunday night. He played a mature innings to take India home.

The fielding standards in the team have risen due to the likes of Kaif and Yuvraj and both complement each other well to lift the spirit of the side.

V V S Laxman and Ganguly will be keen to join the run feast tomorrow after they briefly showed us their capabilities on Sunday.

After Sunday's defeat the Pakistanis will come hard at the Indians and their skipper Inzamam-ul Haq will once again be the key. The Indian bowlers kept a tight leash on the Pakistani batsmen and were rewarded well, but they will be disappointed that they let them off the hook after restricting them in the early overs. This was mainly due to Inzamam's excellent batting. Pakistan's batting revolves heavily around their skipper and this fact will be a point of discussion in the Indian camp.

The other dangerous batsmen in this series so far have been Yasir Hameed and Abdul Razzaq. I was impressed with the line our bowlers bowled to Hameed, which ultimately brought about his downfall.

The final will be another thrilling contest. So far in this series cricket has been enthralling and exhilarating. The crowds have been great and this has been one factor that has stood out!

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