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Preview: India vs Pakistan, 1st Test

Faisal Shariff | March 27, 2004 19:56 IST

The Sultan of Multan was in his element on the eve of the first Test between India and Pakistan. Unfazed by the pressure of winning the Test series, Inzamam-ul-Haq sat next to his worried coach, Javed Miandad, who has come under severe fire from former cricketers (read Imran Khan) for failing to win the One-Day International series.

He did not bash up the journalist who asked about match-fixing. He laughed at another who asked a question and answered it himself. And he said Pakistan would seek to take advantage of Sourav Ganguly's absence in the first Test.

Inzamam alsoi denied that India would go into the Test series with the advantage, something he himself had said after the visitors had clinched the ODI series in Lahore.

Today, he warned that his team would be a different unit in the Tests. "We have lost one-day series in the past year, but won the Tests," he said.

Miandad, who was subdued, was caught on the wrong foot when asked for his opinion of Irfan Pathan. "I am never against any bowler," he replied. "The world has seen how he has performed." But the former Pakistan skipper pointed out that bowling in ODIs is different from bowling in Tests.

India will be playing in Multan for the first time and goes into the Test with a handicap. With Ganguly out, Yuvraj Singh will get his second Test cap.

Stand-in captain Rahul Dravid said it will be a huge opportunity for the Punjab batsman who has been in great form this season. "He scored two centuries in the Duleep Trophy final. He has the enthusiasm of youth and I hope he uses the opportunity that has come his way," Dravid said.

Dravid also denied that India has the momentum now from the ODI series win. "Momentum can shift in an hour of play," he pointed out. "We start 50-50 and are equally matched sides. But yes, we are definitely in a better frame of mind."

Dravid said leading the side would not really hamper him too much because as Ganguly's deputy for the last couple of years he has been used to thinking strategy.

But he said this would be one of India's 'hottest' tours. Lahore was the hottest city so far in the series. But Multan promises to be hotter, with temperatures in the forties forecast as the week progresses.

Pitch report

Chief curator Andy Atkinson said the wicket is dry but would assist the fast bowlers early on.

Despite the scarcity of live grass on the wicket, Atkinson said it has been 'sprinkled' with grass to retain the moisture in the wicket.

At first look the wicket seems brown and flat, but he warned that the state of the wicket a day before the game and on the morning of the match are like chalk and cheese.

He said the hot climate would ensure that the wicket deteriorates as the days pass and the spinners will come into play on the last two days.

Team selection

Both teams will announce their final eleven on the morning of the match. India has only announced that off-spinner Ramesh Powar and Sourav Ganguly will definitely not play.

Ganguly is suffering from pain even now and is unable to bend. X-rays have shown that there is a lack of fluid in certain parts of his spinal cord. The Indian captain has been advised complete and should take another few days to recover. He hopes to play the second Test.

The team management is caught in two minds about Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan with Irfan Pathan and L Balaji sure to play.

Zaheer Khan's nagging shoulder problem is preventing him from playing at cent per cent. Murali Kartik, however, looks likely to sit out in favour of the experienced Anil Kumble.

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