India v Pakistan, 5th ODI, Jaipur November 18, 2007

'India at a disadvantage with new captain for Tests' - Malik



Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf capitalised on the ineffectiveness of India's part-time bowlers in their partnership of 168 © AFP

Despite losing early wickets while chasing Pakistan's 306 in the final one-dayer in Jaipur, India were in contention until the 36th over of the second innings. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were once again batting fluently but an injury to Dhoni's left ankle while turning for a second run halted their momentum. Yuvraj was out off the first ball after play resumed and the Indian challenge fizzled out.

With the Test series beginning on November 22 in Delhi, Dhoni allayed concerns over his left ankle. "My foot is okay," he said at the post-match press conference. "There is not much swelling, and I hope it should be all right in a couple of days."

He said that the loss of wickets at the start - India were 62 for 4 at one stage - had created pressure on the middle order which was forced to play catch-up with a mounting asking rate.

"We lost just too many wickets inside 15 overs. When the opposition scores more than 300, you need to maintain the run-rate for a successful chase. Pakistan's fast bowlers bowled really well, and on a normal day we would not have played the kind of shots that we played today. With the asking rate soaring, it was almost an impossible task for the lower-order batsmen."

India adopted the four-bowler strategy with success in Gwalior, but in Jaipur the part-timers - Yuvraj and Virender Sehwag - went for 73 runs off ten overs during the middle overs and allowed Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf to build their 168-run stand for the fourth wicket.

"That is one thing we need to decide," Dhoni said. "We had played with four bowlers and won matches while we've played with five bowlers and lost matches. The wicket [in Jaipur] was not helping the spinners as much, and they [Pakistan batsmen] capitalised in the middle overs. They never let the part-timers settle in."

As the teams gear up for the first Test in Delhi, Anil Kumble will take over the captaincy from Dhoni, a factor which Malik felt would work to Pakistan's advantage.

"I think India would be at a disadvantage, having a new captain who has to start afresh while I have been leading the side for quite a while. Though he [Kumble] is a great bowler I think we would start with an advantage."

Pakistan went into the final one-dayer in Jaipur with the aim of clinching a morale-boosting win and Malik said that the 31-run victory had done just that.

"The win has lifted team morale and the dressing-room mood is upbeat. Though we lost the ODI series, we would go into the Tests at par with India."

George Binoy is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo