A 'must-win' contest for India
by Asher Wilson

Scorecard:India v Pakistan
Event:Pakistan in India 2012/13

DateLine: 2nd January 2013


India v Pakistan
2nd ODI 2013
Match Preview


Wrecked by Pakistani seamers in their opening ODI match, India's under-fire cricketers will have to pull themselves up against their arch rivals when they clash in a must-win second cricket one-dayer on Thursday with the form of their top-order batsmen a concern.


Although they trail 0-1 in the 3-match series, Team India decided to give net practice a skip while their opponents were sweating out a practice session on Tuesday for the upcoming contest at Eden Gardens. Eight Indian players were already in Kolkata on Tuesday afternoon and certainly missed a chance to get in groove before the crucial second ODI.


Pakistan pacer Junaid Khan had sucked the life out of Indian batting when his fiery spell of four for 43 in Chennai smashed the top order and eventually set up a six-wicket victory for his team.


None of the top five batsmen could even reach double digits if it had not been for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's heroic unbeaten 113, things would have been more embarrassing for the hosts.


Another defeat on Thursday would mean India's second series loss in less than a fortnight after England recorded their first Test series win (2-1) on Indian soil in 28 years. With odds heavily stacked against them at Eden Gardens, a struggling India will be under tremendous pressure to keep the three-match series alive. It remains to be seen how captain Dhoni makes his top-order click with both Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir struggling to provide a good start.


In absence of the retired great, Sachin Tendulkar, senior pro Sehwag is yet to take up the challenge and lead the batting from the front. Sehwag had a poor 2012, accumulating 217 from 10 matches. Barring a 96 against Sri Lanka last year, he's yet to fire since his record-breaking 219 in December 2011.


The Sehwag conundrum is hurting India's cause and the Delhi opener now needs to come up with a sizzling innings to give India a bright start, something that more often than not translates into a big win. Considering that Sehwag, who did not play the T20Is, specially figured in India's ODI scheme of things, his return to form will be the need of the hour.


Virat Kohli too is going through a mini-slump and this has only added to India's misery. Kohli had injured his foot in Chennai and there's a cloud of uncertainty over him but India would want the promising right-hander to be back at his usual number three.


Barring Yuvraj Singh who had set up India's series-levelling T20 International win in Ahmedabad with his 36-ball 72, India's batting has been a picture of inconsistency. But the skipper has backed his famed batting line-up despite the prolonged lean patch.


Promising batsman Ajinkya Rahane has been warming the bench but may get a chance tomorrow in case Kohli does not recover from his injury. Dhoni might have drawn severe criticism in the wake of the defeat to England, but the skipper has maintained his 'ice-cool' demeanour in leading from the front as he showed in his unbeaten century to take India to 227 from 5 down for 29. But Dhoni stressed on the need to avoid such a situation in future.


In the bowling department, India would like young Bhuvneshwar Kumar swing the ball with his fine pace, while in spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will be the key as the home side would likely keep the same three-plus-one pace-spin combination which means local lad Mohammad Shami Ahmed may have to wait for his first ODI cap.


The Pakistani camp, on the other hand, has an all-win record against India from past three matches at the Eden Gardens and they would look to wrap-up the issue here. The pace battery of Umar Gul, Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan will once again wish to bowl full throttle and exploit India's weakness.


Irfan had pulled a hamstring under the muggy conditions of Chennai and it remains to be seen whether the 7-1 speedster figures in the ranks. But all eyes would be on left-arm pacer Junaid as he would again like to provice early breakthroughs with the new ball.


The only concern for skipper Misbah-ul-Haq is to improve their death bowling performance having conceded 81 runs in Chennai as India recovered to 227. Even in the Ahmedabad T20I, the Pakistan bowlers were hit for 74 runs in the last five overs to hurt their cause as India leveled the series with a 11-run victory.


Bolstered by the return of experienced pro Younis Khan in the one-dayer Pakistan doesn't have much concern in batting. Their top batsmen of Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed Shoaib Malik are also among runs and Pakistan would look to get going. Youngster Nasir has shown fine qualities of an opening batsman as he guided Pakistan to a six-wicket win with his 101 not out. He would want to continue from where he has left and give Pakistan a solid start.


Even though it is a noon start in Kolkata, dew could be a concern as the sun sets early. The pitch will have plenty in it for the batsmen, promised curator Prabir Mukherjee.


India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra and Mohammad Shami Ahmed.


Pakistan (from): Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal (wk), Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Anwar Ali, Haris Sohail, Imran Farhat, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Zulfiqar Babar.

(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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