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Pak will come hard at India

By Vivian Richards
February 27, 2003 22:15 IST
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I'm sure India's impressive win against England would have done a lot to improve the mood of the team's supporters back home.

Sourav Ganguly won an important toss, and like the other teams in this tournament's day-night games made full use of batting first and bowling in the evening. I knew England were in for trouble when I saw Rahul Dravid, who is such timer of the ball, having trouble with his timing towards the end of his innings. The ball had started to grip the surface, and the bowlers were getting some assistance.

I have seen enough of the Indian seamers, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Javagal Srinath to know they would be able to do the job. More importantly, the Indians had batted sensibly to reach 250, a total that was always going to be beyond England.

Nehra and Zaheer are improved bowlers, who can be pretty effective in conditions where the ball swings. They looked excited and motivated on a pitch that offered some assistance. It is now up to the Indian authorities to repose some faith in these guys and produce pitches that will assist them and test their batsmen. Till now India's batsmen have been found wanting on bouncy tracks, like the one they played on against Australia, where only Sachin Tendulkar offered some resistance.

The loss against Australia seems very long ago now. At present India look pretty confident and will meet traditional foes Pakistan with momentum on their side. However, I have seen that whenever both meet, Pakistan prevails regardless of what has gone before.

The Pakistanis play with more guts, more desperation and more aggression when they meet India, and we will have to wait and see if this happens at the Centurion.

At this stage, India are playing good cricket and Pakistan are in disarray, but I would not be surprised if all that changes when the two teams meet on Saturday. India's challenge will be to psyche themselves up to reach the level of preparedness that Pakistan achieves during such games. I guess the political rivalry and history comes into it in some ways, but India will have to find a way to lift themselves for this big game

As far as the West Indies is concerned, the group has been opened up by Kenya's remarkable victory against Sri Lanka. It's a day-night game against Sri Lanka and the toss will be crucial. The Sri Lankan team are a wounded side and in cricket, a wounded side can be dangerous. Their loss to Kenya was a hiccup, and they are bound to come hard at us.

The Canada team was also a wounded team when they played us last week, and John Davison's batting was a result of trying to show the world that Canada were worth much more than the 36 runs they scored against Sri Lanka.

Two factors will come into play in the match. How the West Indies batsmen play Murali Muralitharan and how our bowlers bowl to their opening batsmen. We have struggled against Murali in the past, but these are conditions very different from the ones he bowls in at home. In South Africa, the wickets are a lot harder and firmer, so he will be nullified to some extent -- which is good for our batsmen.

We plan to basically stick to playing three bowlers with our bits-and-pieces  men looking after the remaining 20 overs. In this tournament, our batting has been our strength and we will rely on that in this game.

However, we will look at getting the ball in the right spot this time -- something we did not do against Davison. That performance was a wake-up call and we will have to prove Friday that we have learnt our lessons.

Similarly, Sri Lanka has got a wake-up call from Kenya  and will be eager to redeem themselves. Both teams will be on their toes as there is a place in the Super Six as well as their reputation on the line.


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Vivian Richards