Battle between ‘equals’ begins today

New Delhi, November 21:

The real battle between ‘equals’ begin with the India-Pakistan first Test here on Thursday, with both teams’ inexperienced captains facing injury problems.

Both Anil Kumble, who will lead India for the first time in Test cricket, and Shoaib Malik have little experience of captaining their sides in Test cricket. Their worries have increased with a spate of injuries to key players.

Pakistan badly missed paceman Mohammed Asif in their 2-3 ODI series defeat while India felt the first tremors on Tuesday when pacers Rudra Pratap Singh and S Sreesanth were ruled out of the match.

Leg-spinner Kumble and India will take confidence from the Kotla, which has a special place in the skipper’s heart. Also boosting the confidence will be the return of Rahul Dravid. It was on this ground that Kumble not only resurrected his international cricket career in 1992 but also made history seven years later by taking all 10 wickets in an innings against Pakistan. He became only the second bowler after England’s Jim Laker to have achieved that feat in Test history.

As a counter to Kumble, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and left-arm spinner Murali Karthik, Pakistan have picked leg-spinner Danish Kaneria for the three Tests and retained left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman for the series in which spinners are expected to play a major role.

However, Zaheer Khan and Munaf in the Indian side and their counterparts Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanveer and Mohammad Sami also promise to make it an interesting battle, which is likely to be dominated by batsmen. Tendulkar, Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman will definitely give India an edge over Pakistan, who will largely depend on Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq besides Malik for big totals.