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Pakistan looking back for inspiration in India

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Pakistan will seek inspiration from their last two tours of India to offset their current poor form when the teams begin a three-test series on Thursday.

Pakistan’s young skipper Shoaib Malik and his team go into the tests hoping to reverse a 3-2 one-day series defeat to the hosts after arriving in India on the back of home test and one-day series losses to South Africa. The visitors, however, can look back to their consolation win in the final one-dayer on Sunday or their fighting 1-1 series draws on their previous two trips to India in 1999 and 2005.

India were clearly superior in the one-dayers and few believe Pakistan, dubbed one of the most uninspiring sides of recent times, can turn the tables on their traditional rivals. Millions of Indian fans will be particularly focussed on 37-year-old leg spinner Anil Kumble when he returns to the venue of his greatest performance for his test captaincy debut.

Kumble, the third highest test wicket-taker with 566 victims, became only the second bowler in test history to take all 10 wickets in an innings when he inspired a series-levelling win over Pakistan at Delhi’s Ferozshah Kotla ground in 1999.

India enjoy a good recent test record, having won three of their last four series, all played abroad. They have lost just one home series in seven years, against Australia in 2004.

India will welcome back batting mainstay Rahul Dravid, who abruptly quit as captain after this year’s England tour and was dropped from the one-day squad. He is brimming with confidence after scoring a double hundred and hundred in back-to-back Ranji Trophy matches this month.

The hosts face a challenge over the inclusion of middle order batsman Yuvraj Singh, waiting in the wings after showing great form by amassing 272 runs with four fifties in the one-dayers.

If the team management take the tough decision to play him, either of the experienced batsmen Saurav Ganguly or Vangipurappu Laxman may have to sit out.

All three could still play if wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni does not recover from an ankle injury he suffered in Sunday’s final one-dayer and Dinesh Karthik, the makeshift opener, takes over behind the stumps. Pakistan begin their life in tests without batting stalwart Inzamam-ul-Haq after he retired last month.

His successor Malik finally provided them a confidence boost scoring a match-winning 89 and grabbing three wickets in Jaipur. Malik is also hopeful India’s decision to split the test and one-day captaincy between Dhoni and Kumble would break their continuity and help Pakistan.

The visitors would need strike bowler Shoaib Akhtar to touch his peak in the absence of the injured Mohammad Asif after he looked good only in patches in the one-dayers following a 13-game ban which ended shortly before the series began. 

They could give 20-year-old stumper Sarfraz Ahmed his test debut by dropping the struggling Kamran Akmal after the late tour replacement made an impressive one-day start in Jaipur.

Kolkata and Bangalore will host the final two tests.

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