Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pak vs Ind 1st Test: Selection Dilemmas & Predictions

The 1st test gets underway on Thursday in Delhi and both Pakistan and India would be fancying their chances of getting the upper hand early in the series. India, after their test series win in England and wins against Pakistan in the 20-20 world cup and the ODI series would start as favorites. But Pakistan, after winning the 5th ODI, have their tails up and look like a team that is gelling well together. The tense faces that were visible after the 4th ODI seemed very relaxed during the practice session earlier this evening.

Injuries to their front line pacers, RP Singh and Sreesanth have left India pondering over the composition of their attack. Will they play 3 spinners along with Zaheer Khan or will they go in with Zaheer and Munaf and 2 spinners? Munaf, drafted in to cover for the 2 injured pacers, is a risk as he is coming back from injury and also has a history of breaking down in between matches.
Another dilemma faced by India is how to fit Yuvraj Singh into the XI. I don't think Kumble, playing his 1st test as captain, will gamble on Yuvraj and will go in with the tried and tested Laxman and Ganguly at 5 and 6. Dhoni, who rates Yuvraj as India's best batsman these days, might be pushing for his inclusion though. Its a good problem to have for India.

Pakistan's batsmen will be itching to bat against India's attack, while Pakistan's pace attack will heave a huge sigh of relief if they don't see Yuvi in the starting line up on Thursday.

Pakistan, I hope, go in with three pacers and don't use the useless strategy of playing both Kaneria and Rehman as they did against South Africa. Shoaib Akhtar, Gul, Sami, and Kaneria seem like a potent attack on paper and have the potential to take 20 wickets in a match. Is it just me or does India's batting not look as threatening as it once was? No Sehwag at the top, a rusty Dravid, and two batsmen who don't do too well against Pakistan - Laxman and Ganguly. Sachin and Dhoni look like the only two who can trouble the Pakistanis.

Pakistan's selection dilemma is who to play at the position left vacant by Inzamam - Misbah or Faisal Iqbal? If it were up to me, I would have opened with Malik and Butt and played both Faisal and Misbah. Sadly, I'm not part of the think tank, thus a choice will have to be made since the talk of Hameed and Butt opening is already doing the rounds.
If I were to choose, I would go with Faisal as I believe it is time that he establishes himself in the test side, something that he has been waiting for since the last 5 years. He has the potential, the ability, and the desire to do so. All he needs is a long run in the test side to prove his mettle at the international level. I think its time that Faisal shows the world why he has been Pakistan's best batsman at the domestic level for the last few seasons.
Since the tour exchanges began in 2004, Pakistan and India have played 9 tests and the 3-3 scoreline leaves little to choose between the 2 teams. Barring a drawn series, the next 3 tests will take one team forward. India has always been a strong test side at home and lately they have won away from home as well, thus they are definitely favorites. Pakistan stand an outside chance and have the potential to upset, but they will have to fight hard to topple India.
I predict results in all 3 matches, a decider at Bangalore, 500+ runs for Sachin Tendulkar, 20 wickets for Shoaib Akhtar, a Yuvi 100 in the 3rd test where he would have replaced Laxman, 2 centuries for Faisal Iqbal, question marks over Dravid's lack of runs, a career ending series for Kamran Akmal, the retention of Anil Kumble as captain for the series against Australia, and praise for skipper Shoaib Malik.
The only reason I'm not predicting a winner is because I don't want it to seem that I am placing an emotional bet. I can't wait for the series to begin.
What are your predictions?

Make your pitch on this post...

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5 Pitched:

  1. Obaid said...

    I think Yuvraj definitely deserves a spot on current and recent form

    I can't wait for the action to start, Thursday is a holiday here in the US because of thanksgiving and my turkey is going to be test cricket!

  2. NAzhar said...

    cricket and football on Thanksgiving...i luv it!

    Yuvraj is similar to Bevan...he can't handle the short ball and until he does that he is going to have a tough time making it to the test team. Having said that I definitely think he warrants a shot in this series based on his super current form.

  3. Q said...

    If I were choosing the 2 teams, I would play:

    Pakistan: Butt, Malik, Younis, Yousuf, Faisal, Misbah, Sarfraz, Sami, Shoaib, Gul, Kaneria

    India: Karthik, Jaffer, Dravid, Sachin, Ganguly, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Pathan, Kumble, Harbhajan, Zaheer

    But from what Ive been reading, I think the following are going to play:

    Pakistan: Butt, Hameed, Younis, Yousuf, Malik, Misbah, Akmal, Rehman, Shoaib, Gul, Kaneria

    India: Karthik, Jaffer, Dravid, Sachin, Ganguly, Laxman, Dhoni, Kumble, Hrbhajan, Zaheer, Munaf

    Decide for yourself, which is better.

  4. KC said...

    Kaneria is a strange case ... in the last year or so, he talks to the media before the match, tries to nominate a bunny for him, then more ofter than not get him out at least once. The problem, however, is that he takes 3-5 wickets in every 100 overs while leaking a lot runs.

    i dont mind him giving away the runs as we should always use him as one of our strike bowlers - but his strike rate is getting attrocious with each match. and lately, he hasnt be claiming that many wickets in the series either.

    we need him on song to have any say in the series.

    rehman is a waste of space in my opinion ... he had a decent series against. i reckon that was more because our bowling in general was pathetic, and he stood out in the best from an underachieving bunch.

    we shouldn't play two specialist spinners at all. if need be, malik should be our second spinner.

    as for batting - hameed needs play time to gain the confidence that has deserted him. we need permanent openers, and malik doesnt see himself as one.

    faisal/misbah is tricky though. we can not really drop misbah yet - faisal provides almost the same batting option, with more temperament and the chripiness in the field. i'd go with faisal.

    the team for me should be ...

    butt, hameed, younis, yousuf, faisal, malik, sarfaraz, akhtar, sami, gul, kaneria

    i doubt that it would the team on thursday though.

  5. Q said...

    Kaneria is not the strike bowler every Pakistan captain has talked about. Definitely not the one Inzi thought he was. Though he did take 19 wickets in 3 tests against India on the previous tour in 2005, but as u said KC, his wickets are too expensive, which doesn't make him a match winner.

    Why do u think Malik doesn't see himself as an opener? When he was just a player trying to establish himself in the team he said that he was willing to bat wherever the team required him too and Inzi used him as a test opener and that too a succesful one. I remember the match saving 150 he scored to deny the Lankans victory on the last day of a test.

    He opened as recently as the 4th ODI and did alrite scoring 31. Better than most Pakistani openers have done.

    Why is he changing his mind and approach now?

    I think Pakistan need to play their best 6 batsmen and they are Yousuf, Younis, Malik, Butt, Faisal, and Misbah. If u need 2 guys to open from that, then it has to be Butt and Malik. I hope they don't decide to open with Akmal in an effort to play these 6 batsmen.

    Action starts in less than 8 hrs. Cant wait!

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