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Getting ready for Pakistan.
by Gulu Ezekiel
Dec 24, 2005
Not too much significance should be read into India's comprehensive series win against a weak Sri Lanka. It is though a welcome relief after the disastrous last home season.

Remember, Australia beat us 3-1 and then a raw Pakistan side held us 1-1 in the Test series before a shock 3-2 verdict in the ODI series.

Although fans almost take it for granted that India's spinners and batsmen will easily wrap things up on home soil, it should be remembered that the Lankans had the better of the truncated first Test match at Chennai.

Even though the much-vaunted Indian batting was skittled out for 167, that setback did not affect the course of the rest of the series, though the Lankans scored some points in the rain-affected Test. But right through, the top half of the Indian batting had a tendency to crumble and that is a worrying aspect.

On the plus side the emergence of both Irfan Pathan and Mahindra Singh Dhoni as genuine all-rounders means the Indian tail is shorter than ever.

India's series win coming at the same time as England's 2-0 loss at the hands of Pakistan does assume some significance in that it now places India second in the ICC Test rankings, behind world champions Australia. It is the highest position we have attained so far but all that can change pretty soon.

The acid test for the Rahul Dravid-Greg Chappell combine will come next month in Pakistan where they face a side much more powerful, disciplined and determined than the one they came up against last year.

There are unlikely to be too many surprises in the touring side which will be announced on Saturday. That is unless Sourav Ganguly's political string-pulling and arm-twisting results in him slipping in as the 16th member of the side.

Even that would not guarantee him a place in the playing XI and we then might see the sorry spectacle of the former captain reduced to 12th man duties. Assuming he does get to play, Shoaib Akhtar and co. will soon sort him out with the short stuff. One way or the other, by hanging on he would only ensure an ignominious exit for himself.

It is time though that Zaheer Khan came back into the team. Whatever may have been his attitude and fitness problems in the recent past, he has shown by his form in domestic cricket that he is ready to return. Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has already promised that the tracks will be hard and fast as he is now looking to his pace battery to produce results as they did against England.

That would mean India need to take four pace bowlers, three spinners, a wicket-keeper and seven batsmen to Pakistan. The final combination will no doubt produce plenty of debate, especially on the streets of Kolkata.

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