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Sehwag, Chopra are the key for India

Faisal Shariff in Multan | March 28, 2004 17:28 IST

With India celebrating its one-day success in Pakistan, Test opener Akash Chopra, who sparkled in Australia, joined the team in Lahore.

Though Chopra only managed a series tally of 186 runs Down Under, his opening stands with Virender Sehwag in the Tests ensured that the middle order was not exposed early on to the Australian quicks.

The result was a maiden Test win in Australia after 22 years and a series drawn 1-1.

The fact that Chopra did not get his maiden century in the Australian series does not worry him.

"What better place than Pakistan to get your first Test century?" he argued. "This series has it all. It's challenging, there is so much pressure on the players to perform, and yet it is a great opportunity. Performing well here ranks very high on any cricketer's list."

Chopra, however, felt that if there been a side game before the first Test, it would have helped him to prepare better for the series. "But it is not a major adjustment that I have to make. It will take some time, but I am confident it won't be too long."

Chopra is fearless when asked about facing Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami.

"I played fast bowlers in Australia without much worry," he pointed out. "It will be the same thing all over again. But there is no doubt that facing up to the likes of Akhtar and Sami will be a great challenge and I would like to win."

Chopra believes that he matured as a batsman on the Australia tour and hopes to put all that experience to good use in Pakistan.

His partner Sehwag, quite characteristically, is clear about one thing: "If I get a bad ball, I will go for it."

Sehwag, however, said he would give the first hour of the morning to the bowlers and then get down to the business of piling on the runs.

"The ball will move in the morning," he said, "and I will respect that. But I don't think I need to change my game."

Stand-in skipper Rahul Dravid described Sehwag best when he said he is a classic case of 'what you see is what you get'. "But as against what you see of him, Viru is more determined than he has ever been," Dravid said.

"There is a lot more to him than just flashy strokes. He has a great temperament and he understands the game very well. He is not a bindaas cricketer, he is very equanimous."

Former India skipper and selector Chandrakant Borde had compared Sehwag to former Indian opening batsman and skipper Krishnamachari Srikkanth for his flashy approach to batting.

"I did not see Srikkanth at his best," said Dravid, "but I can say that what Sehwag has done so far in his career is phenomenal. He will go a long way in both forms of the game. It is a choice he will have to make, but I think he has a good basic technique and brilliant speed and bat flow."

If the two openers can replicate the form they showed in Australia and counter the hostile opening spells of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Sami, India could well be on course to win their first Test series in Pakistan.

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