Pakistan looks at a clean sweep

More than a month back here at the Sardar Patel Stadium, India defeated England by nine wickets in the first Test and the seeds for a fine home-run was seemingly sown. The batsmen, notably Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara, had clicked and the spinners had extracted turn while England batsmen shuffled back to the pavilion.

Much has changed since then as India return to the venue albeit in coloured clothing for the second and final Twenty20 match against Pakistan here on Friday. The home-spun dreams lie in tatters as England won the Test series, drew level in the Twenty20s and is now busy tucking into Christmas pudding and wine back home while to make matters worse for India, Pakistan triumphed at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

A deep batting line-up was found shallow despite Ravindra Jadeja emerging at number eight. The bowling, notwithstanding debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s three wickets, was further enfeebled with the omission of R. Ashwin though the off-spinner did not do anything spectacular against England in the earlier Twenty20 games.

Surely the times have changed as Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez spoke about how the Indian playing eleven lacked a world-class spinner at Bangalore. In another era, it would have sounded blasphemous especially in a land acclaimed for its masterly practitioners of spin.

In a packed calendar that has matches against Pakistan, England and Australia lined up while the host broadcaster does its best to hype up contests, India has to buck up fast beginning with the match here against Hafeez’s men.

So far, its batsmen have offered half-measures and it was exemplified by Gautam Gambhir at Bangalore. He kept finding the fielder and once the opener rediscovered his timing, Gambhir undid that promise with a run-out and the rest just caved in.

Dhoni’s ploy of lengthening the batting order and hoping that the part-timers will chip in effectively as bowlers came unstuck and the advantage of having Pakistan on the mat at 12 for three, was squandered. The faith in the team from the common man on the street however remains undiminished and the demand for tickets for the latest game is a pointer to that and it is time for the ‘Men in Blue’ to offer cheer to its most loyal fan-base.

Pakistan meanwhile is hoping to clinch the game and pocket the series 2-0 to cap a year in which the only highs were its 3-0 whipping of England in Tests and claiming the Asia Cup title at Dhaka. Its latest addition to the cult of fast bowling — Mohammad Irfan — is not a tyro as he is 30-years-old but he presented a fresh danger to the Indians.

His height has helped him add steep bounce to the existing repertoire of pace and that only aggravated the Indian top-order’s woes. Yet, India can take heart from the fragility in Pakistan’s batting as without the alliance between Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, the visitor would have lost the contest at Bangalore.

The pitch here is expected to be on the slower side but whether India would embrace an assured return to its much-awaited winning ways remains to be seen.

The teams (from): India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), G. Gambhir, A. Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, S. Raina, V. Kohli, R. Jadeja, R. Ashwin, A. Dinda, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, P. Awana, P. Chawla and A. Rayudu.

Pakistan: M. Hafeez (captain), N. Jamshed, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, U. Amin, S. Malik, S. Afridi, S. Ajmal, M. Irfan, Junaid Khan, S. Tanvir, U. Gul, Asad Ali, Z. Babar and Ahmed Shehzad.

Umpires: Sudhir Asnani and Vineet Kulkarni; Third umpire: Shamsuddin;

Match referee: Roshan Mahanama.

Match starts at 5 p.m.

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