SPORT

Fate of Test depends on the 'X-factor'



Stroke-play will become increasingly difficult on this pitch



The first session on Monday will be crucial, writes Imran Khan



The fate of this Test now depends on what I call the X-factor. That is, it depends on the extent to which this pitch will deteriorate. There are already some signs that this pitch will not be as easy to bat on as the one in Lahore. True, it looked almost identical on day one when Pakistan made merry, but since this afternoon the bounce has been variable and stroke-play will become increasingly difficult as time goes by. The first victim of this variable bounce was Virender Sehwag and he certainly will not be the last.

Danish Kaneria will be a tough customer on the fifth day, but for him to succeed against this Indian batting, he will need the visitors to be under a great deal of pressure. This is why I feel that the first session on Monday will be crucial. If India double their score with the loss of only one more wicket, chances are that they will manage a draw in this game as well. The Pakistan team had the best of the conditions, and Inzamam as well as Shahid Afridi once again put the hapless Indian bowlers to the sword.

Hapless bowlers

The pitch did not have much to offer for the first day as well as the second morning, and Afridi is murderous in such conditions. The Indian bowlers had to suffer for their lack of ammo in the pace bowling department once again. They have not been successful abroad because they rely too much on their spin duo. The wickets at Lahore and Faisalabad were flat, but even in conditions that are more helpful, I don't think this pace attack is capable of shooting out a side for a low score.

However, I do feel that R.P. Singh has some potential. He swings the ball and has a nippy, high-arm action. If he develops some more pace he could be a handy bowler for the Indians. It was depressing to see Irfan Pathan go wicket-less, but sadly, I am not surprised. Some serious flaws have crept into his wrist position as well as the way he holds the ball. We did a comparison of these two aspects of his bowling in 2004, when he was at his best, and at present, when he is struggling. He needs to urgently correct his grip on the ball because he is losing pace as well as movement and is hence not as dangerous as he used to be when he started out.

Positive decision

As for the batting, I am sure that Rahul Dravid's decision to omit Sourav Ganguly in favour of a fifth bowler must have been discussed at length by the Indian media. I think it was a positive decision.

The Indian pacers had been struggling and the cushion that Zaheer Khan provided was crucial. He took three important wickets and really bowled his heart out. India's batting looks formidable even without the sixth batsman and since bowling is India's weak suit, it is a good thing that Dravid chose to strengthen it.

If Pakistan are to force a victory here, they have to utilise the early-morning moisture on the third-day track. Dravid is looking ominous, and the result might just depend on how long he stays in the middle. (Gameplan)



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