India v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Bangalore March 23, 2005

Playing to win

Captain and vice-captain look on keenly as the pitch gets some attention © AFP

Any team that goes into the final Test of a three-Test series 1-0 up must feel that half its job is done. Would Sourav Ganguly go for a draw on a batting-friendly surface at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore to secure the series win?

Ganguly said he would not."We will play this Test like we played the last two," he said. "We will play to win."

Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, who will be playing his 100th Test tomorrow, agreed that the pitch would help India play for a draw. "But we have no choice," he said. "We have to go for a win. It doesn't matter if we lose, but we must win."

The conditions and the pitch

The weather at Bangalore was unusually warm, and bowling in the afternoon sun would be sapping. Both teams had fifth-bowling options in Shahid Afridi and Sachin Tendulkar, and these men would no doubt play a key part in giving the frontline bowlers a break. There might not be much work for the faster bowlers here: the pitch was stripped bare, and Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's coach, described it as "a batting paradise". The pitch was expected to help the spinners later in the game, though. Winning the toss, thus, was important, as whoever batted first would have a great opportunity to pile up a big score in ideal conditions, and then bowl fourth.

The teams

Shahid Afridi could turn out to be Pakistan's surprise weapon in the decider © AFP


"We're going to play with aggression," Inzamam-ul-Haq said the day before the Test at Kolkata began. "We're going to try and play a positive game." He said that the Kolkata match was Pakistan's for the saving. "On the pitch we could have batted through the whole day. It was a failure on the part of the batsmen that we didn't."

Inzamam indicated that two changes were likely in the Pakistan side. He did not say what those were, but birdies indicated that Yasir Hameed would replace Taufeeq Umar, and Arshad Khan would replace Mohammad Khalil.


Winning this Test would be a "big achievement for the team", said Sourav Ganguly, not just because it would give India a 2-0 series win, but also because they would jump to No. 2 in the ICC's Test rankings. "The 14-15 guys who have worked for this over the last three, four, five years will be satisfied," he said. "It will be great for Indian cricket."

No changes were expected in the Indian team, but Ganguly's form with the bat was a worry. "I understand that I need to get runs," he said. "I'll try and get a big score here."

Amit Varma is contributing editor of Cricinfo. He writes the independent blogs, India Uncut and The Middle Stage.