India face under-pressure Pakistan, Malik fit to play(Curtain raiser with comments)

July 1st, 2008 - 9:37 pm ICT by IANS  

By K. Hussain
Karachi, July 1 (IANS) India will take the field against Pakistan Wednesday fully aware that a victory would catapult them into the final of the Asia Cup. Pakistan have no such luxury. They need to beat India at all costs and that too by a healthy margin and then register a big win over Bangladesh on Friday in their last Super Four match. That’s not enough because the hosts will have to also hope that Sri Lanka beat India to pave their way for an appearance in Sunday’s grand finale.

While the Indians can afford to falter tomorrow, Pakistan are walking on thin ice.

But Pakistan received a boost Tuesday evening when captain Shoaib Malik was declared fit for the game. Malik has been suffering from severe dehydration playing back-to-back matches, but chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed told reporters after a practice session that the allrounder is fit and will lead Pakistan.

“Malik is feeling better now and wants to play tomorrow,” said Salahuddin.

Facing no ifs and buts like his Pakistani counterpart Geoff Lawson, India coach Gary Kirsten exuded confidence as his charges flexed their muscles for the game against Pakistan at the NBP Stadium.

Kirsten’s side received a boost Tuesday when allrounder Irfan Pathan was declared fit.

“He (Irfan) is fine and is available for selection,” Kirsten said.

The former South Africa Test opener said that his boys were feeling great after a rejuvenating break.

“After focusing hard, it’s important to get time off cricket,” he said.

“We are happy with the lead up to the next two games.”

Pakistan will be making two changes in their playing eleven, brining in uncapped off-spinner Saeed Ajmal in place of allrounder Mansoor Amjad. Left-arm medium pacer Wahab Riaz will be dropped as the hosts have decided to give pacer Abdul Rauf his first Asia Cup opportunity.

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