|Event:||India in Pakistan 2005/06|
DateLine: 6th January 2006
Skipper Rahul Dravid Friday said India were ready for a tough Pakistan challenge and wanted to take one step further towards becoming one of the best teams in the world.
"We have the firepower and the balance to counter anything and I am confident that we are up to the Pakistan challenge," Dravid told reporters a day after his team arrived here to play three Tests and five one-dayers.
"This series will be a step towards the destination of becoming one of the best teams in the world and to test our skills against a tough opponent," said Dravid.
India are second behind Australia in the official Test rankings.
The 12-member team and 10 support staff arrived amidst tight security late Thursday.
Four members of the team -- former captain Sourav Ganguly, leg-spinner Anil Kumble, opener Vireder Sehwag and wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel -- will arrive in Pakistan on Saturday.
The series will be the third between the arch rivals since New Delhi lifted a four-year-bilateral ban in 2004 which cleared the way for the resumption of sporting ties.
India toured Pakistan two years ago for their first series across the border since 1989-90, while Pakistan paid a return trip early last year.
Dravid said three series in two years have relaxed the enormous public pressure the two teams go through when playing against each other.
Dravid suggested an Indo-Pakistani series on an Ashes format between the traditional rivals and bitter political foes.
India won 2-1 in Tests and 3-2 in the preceding one-day series on their last tour, their first wins in Pakistan since 1952.
Dravid, who led India to 2-0 home series win against Sri Lanka last month, said there were no favourites in the series.
"The pre-series talk of who is favourite and who is underdog is for the press and it's the team which performs well on the day is what matters and both teams are very balanced," said Dravid.
When asked how would they handle an in-form Shoaib Akhtar, who took 17 wickets in Pakistan's 2-0 series win against England last month, Dravid replied: "They have a very good attack, so we would not focus on any one bowler."
India's Australian coach Greg Chappell predicted his side would fare well against Pakistan.
"It is a contest between two emerging teams. For me my whole group and solidarity is our trump card and we are not relying on any one player," said Chappell, who took over as coach from New Zealander John Wright last year.
Chappell, who lost 1-0 as Australian captain when the team visited Pakistan in 1979, said Pakistan was a difficult place to play cricket.
"Pakistan is always tough but this Indian team has the capacity to face anything which comes its way, whether it's hard pitches, good bowling or any tough weather," said Chappell, who praised Dravid as captain.
"Rahul has shown himself to be a very good captain, he is learning very quickly and it is a tough job, there are certain areas that he needs to be courageous to take decisions. He has the capacity to be the best India has had."
India open their tour with a three-day match against Pakistan A at Bagh-e-Jinnah stadium from Saturday. The first Test starts here from January.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)