India v Pakistan, Jaipur, 5th ODI November 17, 2007

Five things to watch out for

The one-day series has been decided but there's still plenty to look forward to in Jaipur. Here are five things to watch out for.



Shahid Afridi is the man to watch out for in Jaipur © AFP
Praveen Kumar's debut
Allrounder Praveen Kumar had reason to celebrate India's series-clinching victory in Gwalior a little more than the others. It meant that India would probably rest a few players and give him an international debut against Pakistan. It also meant he would not meet the same fate as S Badrinath, who was selected for a couple of ODIs against Australia and then dropped without getting a game. He's a rare breed of bowler in India, one who swings it both ways, and a hard-hitting batsman. Tomorrow will prove to be a stern test, for apart from the pressures of a debut game, a strong performance could win him a berth in the ODI squad for the tri-series in Australia; and a failure could see him slip away from reckoning.

A final chance to boom
News that Shahid Afridi was returning to Pakistan after the one-dayers came as a surprise. He has had an exceptional year; Player of the Tournament at the World Twenty20 and averaging nearly 30 with both bat and ball in ODIs. However, he has not yet played an explosive innings in this series, aggregating 73 runs in four innings with a high score of 31. A dead rubber, devoid of pressure, with no Tests to look forward to will provide Afridi with the ideal scenario to cut loose and send the crowds scurrying for cover. Where he bats, though, is anybody's guess.

Guess who's back?
After the in-your-face action during the series against Australia, there hasn't been much talking or glaring between the Indians and Pakistanis. But one tends to forget that the protagonist against Australia has been missing from the first four ODIs. Sreesanth will play his first game of the series in Jaipur and bring his aggression, dance moves ... and outswing to the table. Sreesanth has had trouble controlling his line to the left-handers but Pakistan's batting line-up, with the exception of Salman Butt, is full of right-handers against whom Sreesanth uses his outswingers to good effect.

Oh captain my captain
Shoaib Malik's captaincy tenure is still in its infant stages but he's already attracting his fair share of criticism. A choke in the World Twenty20 final followed by the defeat against South Africa at home and the one-day loss to India has already made one of the most insecure jobs in cricket that much harder. Pakistan's constant changing of openers, their shuffling of the batting order, and appalling over-rate in the first four games has painted a picture of a captain who's not sure of himself. Malik can't change impressions overnight, or with an improvement in one ODI, but a stronger performance as captain tomorrow will be a boost ahead of the Tests. And some runs after four failures would be welcome too.

The million-dollar question
Who will open Pakistan's innings? Salman Butt has secured one spot but Pakistan have four options - Kamran Akmal, Imran Nazir, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik - from which to choose his partner. Akmal has opened twice in the series but failed both times so that drastically reduces his chances. Afridi is the perennially exciting option but Pakistan rarely open with him. Imran Nazir is a specialist in the role and plays with the recklessness of a teenage driver. If he bats 15 overs, he could cause irreparable damage to the opposition but whether he will be picked is uncertain. Malik opened in the last game with limited success. He formed a 78-run stand with Younis for the second wicket but got out at a crucial stage. Expect him to face the new ball once again.

George Binoy is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo

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