Pakistan seek consolation win
It's a shame India and Pakistan didn't fly into Jaipur with the series level. A close run-chase under lights at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, with the series at stake, would have been the perfect build-up to the Test series. A full-house is expected for Sunday's dead rubber, but the spectators will have to settle for a less-than-full-strength India taking on Pakistan, who feel that a 2-3 score line will give them some confidence for the Tests.
India's cricket manager Lalchand Rajput categorically told the press corps that they "wanted to give those who haven't played, a chance, since the series had been decided". Although he declined to reveal the XI, he said fast bowlers Zaheer Khan and RP Singh, along with offspinner Harbhajan Singh would sit out. He also said Rohit Sharma would get a game, which meant that either Sourav Ganguly or Sachin Tendulkar would be rested and Gautam Gambhir elevated to his the opening role.
The teams will have to once again take dew into account while deciding team compositions and what to do at the toss. India are likely to persist with their counter-dew combination - seven batsmen and four bowlers - albeit with different personnel.
Murali Kartik will be the lone spinner in the side while Sreesanth and allrounder Praveen Kumar - set to make his international debut - form the pace attack along with Irfan Pathan. The inclusion of Kumar, along with the extra batsman in Virender Sehwag, gives India an extremely long batting order, with the allrounders Pathan and Kumar occupying slots No. 8 and 9.
With the form the Indian top and middle order have been in, the depth in batting may not be called upon, which is why India could take their plan of giving opportunities to the youngsters a step further and promote Sharma to give him a chance of facing a substantial number of overs.
While Rajput made India's approach to the match crystal-clear, Pakistan have a couple of options to choose from. The first, and perhaps rather short-sighted approach, would be to field their strongest XI and search for a morale-boosting win. The second is to look at the Tests as a totally different game, and give Imran Nazir and Fawad Alam, who have carried drinks through the one-day series, a shot at the Indians. Both players have been cut from the Test squad so tomorrow is their final opportunity to play on the tour. While allowing for the dew factor, giving Abdur Rehman match practice, for he is Pakistan's second spinner in the Test squad, is something Pakistan will want to consider.
Another question to be addressed is Kamran Akmal. The selectors called up Sarfraz Ahmed as a stand-by for Akmal, who was supposedly carrying an injury but played in Gwalior, and have retained him in the Test squad. Making an international debut under any conditions is a severe test of confidence and maturity but Sarfraz could be ushered in under the relatively pressure-free atmosphere of an inconsequential match. Akmal, however, didn't drop a catch in the fourth ODI after grassing four in the first three matches and the Pakistan management would want to give their first-choice wicketkeeper every opportunity to build confidence with gloves and bat ahead of the Tests.
Misbah-ul-Haq said, on the eve of the final match, that Shahid Afridi's promotion in Kanpur was because of a "slow wicket which looked like it would spin". The ploy didn't work, for Pathan opened the bowling for the first time in the series and bowled Afridi for 12. If the pitch at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium appeared "normal", Misbah said that Pakistan would play their "normal batting line-up", which could mean either Akmal or Malik opening the innings. Malik looked solid while opening the innings in Gwalior, scoring 31 off 55 balls, but got out precisely when he was trying to accelerate.
The intensity question?
With the prize already won, was there a chance India's intensity would drop? Not according to Gambhir who said that "there wasn't any dearth of it [intensity] against Pakistan. You don't need to have extra motivation when you playing for the country. We want to win each and every match".
Misbah, however, felt that the Indians resting several senior players and not fielding their best combination would give Pakistan a "psychological advantage" and a win tomorrow would give them confidence ahead of the Tests.
A dead rubber, especially in a one-day series, inspires little excitement to most but the Indian fan is a different animal and the crowds will pour in with feverish enthusiasm. The ingredients for a competitive encounter are all in the mix - an excellent stadium, a plush outfield, sizeable boundaries and a full house. So what if the series has been decided and some seniors aren't playing? Once the toss is over and the game gets underway, everybody wants to win.
India: 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Virender Sehwag, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt and wk), 6 Robin Uthappa, 7 Rohit Sharma, 8 Irfan Pathan, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Murali Kartik, 11 Sreesanth.
Pakistan: 1 Salman Butt, 2 Shoaib Malik (capt), 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Kamran Akmal, 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Rao Iftikhar Anjum, 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Umar Gul.
George Binoy is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo