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'India Are The Favourites'

'We have the wherewithal to win both the series as both batsmen and bowlers are at a higher confidence level having proved themselves well on the Australian tour'

'India Are The Favourites'
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Former captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth said India have the wherewithal to beat Pakistan in the upcoming one-day and Test series as the cricketers are on a high after an impressive showing in Australia.

"We are definitely the favourites to win both the series. We have the wherewithal to do so as both batsmen and bowlers are at a higher confidence level having proved themselves very well on the Australian tour," Srikkanth, who was the captain when India last played a full-fledged series in Pakistan in 1989, said in Chennai.

Srikkanth believes that despite the hectic tour of Australia, India can continue in the same vein against Pakistan, who would be keen to emerge victorious at home.

"If I was playing now, I would have definitely required rest to get mentally prepared for a tour like this to Pakistan. The Indians have just completed their VB Series finals. But they have the commitment and are responsible persons to keep themselves fit.

"Definitely Pakistan is not a great team, especially after the retirement of Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram. But they have the capabilities to build up playing on home soil," he said.

If Pakistan is known for its pace strength, Srikkanth felt India also have quality fast bowlers to test the home team batting power.

"I hope Zaheer (Khan) and the others would be fit for the Test series. Now we have enough fast bowling strength. Irfan Pathan is our newest talent rated to be a prodigy and (Lakshmipathy) Balaji has also proved his worth during the Australian tour.

Srikkanth, who was at the receiving end of crowd disturbances during the 1989 tour, said Pakistan would definitely be keen to make the emotion-filled series incident-free.

"From the security point of view, the emotional feelings between Pakistan and India will always be there. Pakistan as a country would want to do a shade better than us like in the earlier Indian tours.

"They will also be eager to see that the tour passes off without any hindrance, especially for the players," he said.

The former opening batsman was flummoxed the way the itinerary has been drawn.

India embark on the 40-day tour on March 10 and will play five one-dayers from March 13 before the start of the three-match Test series.

"It is rather strange to me. Though there is no rule that we should play Tests before one day games, the aspect of preparedness of the players is to be considered.

"A player requires two different mental attitudes for Tests and one dayers.

"Probably, this is one of the few occasions when one-dayers are being played before the Test matches. I do not know as to how this is going to work out. However, the demands of the game also require one to be prepared for any eventuality," he said.

Srikkanth, however, said the just concluded VB series and security aspects could have prompted the cricket boards of both the countries to prepare such an itinerary.

"It may not be difficult for our players to adjust to these formats. After all, they must be fresh from the VB series in Australia and will be able to combine well.

"Perhaps, it is also in the fitness of things and the respective governments and the boards must have decided to have the one-dayers first.

"Both the governments and boards are confident about the security on and off the field but it might be easier for them to assess the situation during the one-day series," he said.

Srikkanth had mixed emotions associated with the '89 tour, where India drew the four Test matches but lost the three-match one-day series 2-0.

Despite everyone being happy with the team's performance in Pakistan, Srikkanth was removed from the captaincy after the series.

"Unfortunately, I was the captain that time. I use the word 'unfortunately' because (Dilip) Vengsarkar opted out due to fitness problems and the senior cricketers were up against the board demanding gradation of payment and 13 of us proceeded to Pakistan without the tour money offered by the board.

"Initially, the players refused to sign the contract. But I was made a scapegoat and removed from captaincy on my return from Pakistan," he said.

As told to R. Eswar

PTI

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