India in Pakistan 2003-04 March 9, 2004

Atkinson's diet, and stuffed cotton

Wisden Cricinfo staff

Until the end of the Indian tour of Pakistan, we will be running a daily Paper Round of what newspapers in India and Pakistan, and from around the world, are saying about this series. This is what the media had to say today:

So what will Andy Atkinson serve up for the India-Pakistan series? Atkinson is the curator hired by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to get its pitches in shape for the series against India, and he was as enthusiastic about the next month-and-a-half as the players are. "An Englishman developing pitches for a high-profile series like an India-Pakistan series is a great honour, although there will be pressure," he said, speaking to The News. "But I promise the pitches will help create the excitement the fans seek from this series. All the pitches will be sporting, with equal chances for batsmen and bowlers. Pitches in Pakistan have been relaid in the last two-three years and they have improved a lot in that period."

Atkinson, an advisor on pitches for the ICC, worked in South Africa between 1993 and 2001. He denied that there were any specific instructions on the pitches from the Pakistan board or captain.

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Bishan Bedi, speaking to Press Trust of India, has some advice for the Indians on how to deal with partisan crowds in Pakistan. "Stuff cotton in your ears and play the game," he said. Bedi pronounced India capable of beating Pakistan, because "we have three batsmen who [can] show stars in the day to Pakistani bowlers. They are Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, and, finally, Sachin Tendulkar." Bedi wasn't too impressed with Ganguly, though. "Short-pitches balls continue to trouble him as [they did] about three years ago," he said. "It is a problem of mindset, which he would have to address himself."

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Virender Sehwag is not worried about reverse-swing. Sehwag, displaying his form with 109 off 69 balls in a practice game at India's conditioning camp in Kolkata, told The Asian Age that he wasn't worried about what Shoaib Akhtar or Mohammad Sami could get up to with the old ball.

"So much talk is going on about how reverse-swing will play a role in Pakistan," Sehwag said. "In the one-dayers there is virtually no scope of exploiting this art. In Test matches, maybe it can be a factor, provided conditions favour reverse-swing."

Sehwag also said that, in the absence of Harbhajan Singh, he would look to do more bowling in both forms of the game. Sehwag bowls offspin, and was looked upon as a batting allrounder when he made his international debut for India.

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Zaheer Khan is aware that the burden of being India's spearhead rests on him after the retirement of Javagal Srinath. Speaking to the news agency, AFP, he said, "I don't want to say that I am leading the attack but there is definitely additional responsibility on me and I will try to carry out my job as best as I can. There is extra pressure on me only because of my injury as I have missed a lot of cricket this year. But I am quite fit now and hope to do well in Pakistan."

Zaheer said the time he has spent with Dennis Lillee and Kapil Dev has helped him develop as a bowler. He told The Asian Age, "Lillee gave me some invaluable tips about run-up and other technical aspects of bowling at the MRF Pace Foundation recently. Kapil Dev also advised me about stretching and mental aspects."

Like Sehwag, Zaheer was dismissive of reverse-swing. "There's nothing hidden about reverse-swing any more," he told The Times of India. "It depends on the ground and the conditions. I think we'll have to swing the ball first [and then worry about reverse-swing]."

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Rameez Raja, the chief executive of the PCB, has written a column for Gameplan, the syndication agency, where he has spoken effusively about the Indian batting line-up. "This is not a robotic line-up where every player is a replica of the other," he has written. "Tendulkar's genius and Sehwag's impetuosity is tempered by the solidity of Rahul Dravid and [Mohammad] Kaif. In between, you have the flair of VVS Laxman, the time of the captain [Ganguly; presumably he meant `timing' and not `time'] and the flamboyance of Yuvraj Singh. It's a batting line-up worth coming miles to watch ... It's this combination and variety that Pakistan's batting lacks at the moment."

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Even artists use technology. VVS Laxman has told PTI that "I have prepared myself to face the Pakistan bowling with confidence. I have watched video recordings of Pakistani bowlers in action in New Zealand and South Africa." Laxman also said that his good form during India's tour to Australia had filled him with confidence. "I have gained a lot of confidence through my performance," he said. "I will continue my form in Pakistan. Australia was a world-class team and we played well against them, but Pakistan is another team."

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The News reports that tickets for the first one-day international between India and Pakistan, at Karachi on March 13, have "sold like hot cakes". Unlike Sunday, when there had been angry clashes between authorities and disgruntled ticket-seekers, the sale proceeded smoothly on Monday. Zakir Khan, the general manager in charge of cricket operations for the PCB, said, "We would have liked to have more seating capacity for the people who are so eager to watch this match. But the fact is that the stadium capacity is [a] maximum [of] 32,950, and 20% of these were sold out on the internet. We also had our obligations towards our sponsors and companies, which left around 23,000 tickets for sale to the public."