Pakistan aim for whitewash as India fight to save face
India’s abject surrender in the 3-match ODI series against bitter rival Pakistan has surprised many cricket pundits. Zaheer Abbas, aka ‘Asian Bradman’, is one among those. While Abbas did not expect India capitulate so easily at the Eden Gardens, Intikhab Alam, former coach-manager of Pakistan, has opined that India might find its rebuilding process pretty difficult and a time-consuming affair.
Amidst calls for sacking of India’s foreign coach, Duncan Fletcher, the Indian media is taking a dig at the “non-performing superstars” in the team. The pressure is mounting on skipper MS Dhoni, who may be a doubtful starter for the third and final ODI, and there are many who think it is about time that Virat Kohli takes the reins. But India’s record- holding batting maestro, Sachin Tendulkar, has put his weight behind the team.
There is a lot of talk about the Indian dressing room in the Indian media. Quoting credible sources, some satellite television channels are claiming that Indian team is a divided camp after the series loss to Pakistan and that the communication between the players and the coach has almost stopped.
They must get it together when the play for pride in New Delhi but in Pakistan they will come up against an opponent for whom things appear bright and promising. They simply look a better side.
For Misbah-ul-Haq’s team, the opening pair of Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez is looking confident of laying another good solid foundation for the team, the middle-order looks assured despite Azhar Ali’s failure to get going and the bowling supplies seem endless with Shoaib Malik’s induction in the squad.
Beating India in India in an ODI series after a gap of almost seven years has given Pakistan a psychological edge over India, a team historically considered almost invincible at home. The back-to-back wins at Chennai and Eden Gardens have instilled a great sense of belief and a whitewash is a realistic goal for them.
But Pakistan needs to guard against complacency, because India, now more than the start of the series, have got a point prove and they have always had the resources.
Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan have caught famed the Indian batting line by surprise and Saeed Ajmal has also stepped up and doing what he does best, but rest assured Kohli and company would not want to duck at this point.
Watch out for Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, both are due for a big score.
With series already in the bag, Pakistan do have the luxury of trying their bench strength by giving chance to young pacers Wahab Riaz and Anwar Ali and and perhaps left-handed batsman Haris Sohail. Umar Akmal may get a nod too but Misbah has indicated there will be not let up.
Lanky left-arm sensation Mohammad Irfan, Umar Gul and struggling one-drop batsman, Azhar Ali could be the ones rested with an eye on the South Africa series.
Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq* (capt), Kamran Akmal, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Wahab Riyaz, Zulfikar Babar, Mohammad Irfan, Imran Farhat, Haris Sohail, Azhar Ali, Anwar Ali
It is quite possible that India might be tempted to give Ajinkya Rahane an opportunity to open the proceedings in place of either Gautam Gambhir or Virender Sehwag. Both are horribly out-of-form and struggling to build a platform for their team at the top. It is also likely that the team could try their 22-year-old right-arm medium pacer Shami Ahmed in place of Ashoke Dinda, who has been little off-colour in the series so far. All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja could retain his place.
(Likely) Ajinkya Rahane, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, R Jadeja, R Ashwin, A Dinda, B Kumar, I Sharma, Amit Mishra, Shami Ahmed
The weather in the Indian capital is expected to be sunny on Sunday with humidity ranging from between 22% to 31%. The Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) has asked the Indian cricket board to consider an early start to the third ODI in view of the heavy winter dew so as to negate an unfair advantage to the side winning the toss.
Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi:
-The last ODI played at this venue was played between India and England on 17 October, 2011, in which the home side comfortably achieved victory by eight wickets with 80 balls remaining. India should take some confidence from that stat
-Pakistan won a game here during the 2005 tour when the visiting side posted a huge total of 303 while batting first. India were all out in 37 overs for paltry 144
-The Kotla wicket is one of Sachin Tendulkar’s favourite. He has 300 runs from 8 innings here, but unfortunately for India, he will be a spectator for this one after his ODI retirement
The writer is a professional journalist. He has worked as editor at Deutsche Welle in Bonn, Germany. Previously, he has also contributed features to the BBC web. Feedback at: email@example.com