Pakistan have everything to play for against India(Lead with comments)

July 1st, 2008 - 10:53 pm ICT by IANS  

By K. Hussain
Karachi, July 1 (IANS) Skipper Shoaib Malik is fit to lead Pakistan and India can call up Irfan Pathan for the key game in the Asia Cup here Wednesday, a match that can seal the fate of the home team if they lose to the visitors a second time in the tournament. A victory will straightaway catapult India into the final, but Pakistan have no such luxury. They need to beat India at all cost and that too by a healthy margin. Then they should achieve a big win over Bangladesh Friday in their last super league game. That’s not enough because the hosts will have to then hope that Sri Lanka beat India to pave their way for an appearance in Sunday’s grand finale.

Indian coach Gary Kirsten exuded confidence as his charges flexed their muscles for the game against Pakistan here at the NBP Stadium Tuesday.

Kirsten side received a boost when allrounder Irfan Pathan was declared fit for the match.

“He (Irfan) is fine and is available for selection now,” 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 middle-order bataman Misbah-ul-Haq said that pressure will be on India in the crunch game.

“We know that we are in a bad situation and the only way out is to win Wednesday. I believe they (India) will be under more pressure as they cannot afford to miss a spot in the final after coming so close to it,” ,” Misbah told reporters here Tuesday evening after a training session.

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

But they will be rejuvenated to hear that captain Shoaib Malik, who cracked a century against India in the league match, will take the field.

Malik has been suffering from severe dehydration since the other day but chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed told reporters after a practice session that the allrounder is fit and will lead Pakistan against India.

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

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 pacer Abdul Rauf his first Asia Cup opportunity.

Misbah rejected the impression that it was all doom and gloom in the Pakistani dressing room.

“Winning and losing is a part of the game and we can’t just continue to crib about it. We are all professionals cricketers and now focused on the next game,” said the middle-order batsman, who may be asked to lead Pakistan in case skipper Shoaib Malik, who is suffering from acute dehydration, sits out.

The Mianwali-born player said that he is ready to fit in that role.

“It would be an honour for me to lead Pakistan if such a need arises,” he said.

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