India is looking to turn around its fortunes in the three-match One-Day International series against Pakistan here at the Eden Gardens on Thursday. Having lost the last series seven years ago and down by a match now, the host will have to regroup against a side which is confident and focused.
The Indians were in full force at the workout this afternoon and went about their business in all seriousness. Virat Kohli — a vital cog in the Indian batting — dispelled fears about his injury as he worked out with the rest of the team.
Pakistan is not a side that will lower its guard.
The victory at Chennai seems to have not only boosted the side’s morale but also given it the hope to sew up the series here, at the Eden, which has been its lucky venue.
Pakistan is yet to lose to India in an ODI at the Eden Gardens. In fact, history is solidly in favour of Pakistan which has won all its limited-over games here except one, to Sri Lanka.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, as usual, was candid in his views about his team. He accepted the fact that the team was under pressure and must win to keep the series alive.
“It is an important game. We are under pressure as it is a short series. So we must buck up and do well in this game,” he said.
“The team is going through a transition period, not only in Tests but also in ODIs. The main bowlers who have been the backbone are injured; the present bowling attack is a little inexperienced. Also, with new rules being introduced, the more the youngsters play, the better they will get.”
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq felt an India-Pakistan series was always vital and winning the series meant a lot to the team. “An India-Pakistan series is always an important one. We are not thinking of when we won last in India. It is very important that we win this series. We have been planning a lot to ensure the victory. We need to carry on playing good cricket,” he said.
Dominating play by Pakistan in the ongoing tour makes it the favourite. Incisive bowling, dependable batting and good fielding makes this side a solid, fighting unit. India, as Dhoni pointed out, faces many concerns — the main ones being the top-order failing to put runs on the board and an inexperienced bowling attack which just did not make any impact in the last game.
A 12 noon start is expected to reduce the dependence on the toss. Dhoni hinted that his team would prefer to chase rather than set a target. The Indian captain said Kohli was fit and available for the match.
Misbah said all his players were available for selection. But the team management was unlikely to disturb the winning combination unless circumstances demanded it.
Dhoni does not feel the batsmen let the team down in the last match. “Indian batsmen have generally batted well in the shorter format. It will be wrong to say that the batting has failed after one match. India needs to play smart cricket,” he said.
With a normal limited-over type of wicket available for the game, India will have to outthink and outmanoeuvre Pakistan. A full house is expected to witness the match and the Cricket Association of Bengal will felicitate a number of former and present cricketers from both India and Pakistan during the break.
The teams (from): India: M.S. Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, R. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashoke Dinda, Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Ajinkya Rahane, Amit Mishra and Shami Ahmed.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Imran Farhat, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Haris Sohail, Junaid Khan, Azhar Ali and Anwar Ali.
Umpires: Billy Bowden and Vineet Kulkarni; TV umpire: Ravi; Fourth umpire: Subrat Das; Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama.
Match starts at 12 noon (IST).