Not easy to spot winners in India-Pakistan cricket series
by AFP

Player:Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Sami
Event:Pakistan in India 2004/05

DateLine: 27th February 2005


Never make the mistake of predicting a winner in an India-Pakistan contest, cricket experts have warned ahead of the high-profile series between the arch-rivals.


Opinions are already divided, with some claiming India will complete a 3-0 whitewash on the strength of their spin on low, slow home pitches.


Others disagree, saying a young Pakistani side have the wherewithal to surprise the hosts in the three-Test series and the six one-day internationals to follow.


"Never predict winners in an India-Pakistan series," says former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, who led his team to victory in the 1992 World Cup in Australia and also vanquished India on their own soil in 1987.


"I think the ability to cope with pressure will decide the issue in this series. We had a weak team in 1987, but still won in India because we handled pressure better than our rivals," said Imran.


"Pakistan need to show team spirit and fighting qualities on the tour, especially after losing key paceman Shoaib Akhtar due to a hamstring injury.


"On paper, Pakistan appear weaker than India but it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise."


Imran believes pace will be Pakistan's best bet against a strong Indian batting line-up.


But Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer says his team will have to bat better against Indian spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in order to win the series.


"It's a huge challenge to face Kumble and Harbhajan, but our boys have done it before," said Woolmer.


Leg-spinner Kumble troubled Pakistan the most on their last tour in 1999, becoming only the second bowler after Englishman Jim Laker to claim 10 wickets in a Test innings in the second match at Delhi.


Kumble again exposed the Pakistani batsmen's weakness against leg-spin last year, finishing with 15 wickets in three Tests to play a crucial role in his team's maiden series victory across the border.


"You need to play psychological games in an Pakistan-India match," said Woolmer.


"The hosts always start favourites, so India appear to have the edge but mental games are key to success in these games," said the Pakistani coach.


Former captain Wasim Akram said Pakistan's batting performance against the spinners would be the key.


"Kumble is a dangerous spinner and Pakistan need to play him cautiously," said Akram, who led his team to victories in two of the three Test matches in 1999.


"Pakistan need to play with a plan and if they stick to a plan you can always win against India since our team is a balanced team," he said.


Pakistan's batting revolves around skipper Inzamam-ul Haq, Yousuf Youhana and Younis Khan.


In Akhtar's absence, the pace attack will be led by Mohammad Sami. Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Khalil and Abdul Razzaq are other fast bowlers in the squad.


Sami will be under pressure to deliver as he has been regarded as an under-achiever with just 48 wickets in 18 Tests.


"I hope Sami delivers. He needs to live up to his potential, but others also should contribute," said Inzamam.


Danish Kaneria is the key spinner in the side and will be supported by Arshad Khan and Shahid Afridi.

(Article: Copyright © 2005 AFP)


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