Vol. 5 Num 263 Tue. February 22, 2005  

'India beatable at home'

Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer Sunday said India are beatable at home and his young team can take inspiration from Australia and South Africa who won a series in India.

"It would be a challenging tour to a country which is regarded as one of the second best teams in the world but in recent years Australia, Pakistan and South Africa have beaten them and that would be an inspiration," Woolmer told AFP as Pakistan prepare for their tour of India.

"A home team always starts as a favourite but this Pakistan team is maturing and is ready for the India challenge."

Australia won their first series in India since 1965 last year while Hansie Cronje led South Africa to a 1-0 win in their series in India in 2000.

Pakistan under former captain Wasim Akram beat India in two of the three Test matches in their last tour of India in 1999.

"They (India) are an all-round team now than in 1999 and 2000 and it would be a challenge to confront the likes of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh," said Woolmer, who played 19 Tests for England and coached South Africa between 1994-1999.

Woolmer took over as coach in June 2004, replacing Javed Miandad after Pakistan lost the home series against India.

"It would be as challenging as Australia in a different sort of way but we won't be confronted with the same sort of fast bowling attack like Australia but Indian spinners would also be challenging," Woolmer said.

Pakistan announced a 16-member squad on Friday, recalling off-spinner Arshad Khan after express pacer Shoaib Akhtar pulled out due to injury.

Woolmer agreed Akhtar's absence would be felt but hoped other bowlers would come and fill the gap.

"Obviously a bowler of Akhtar's pace is very useful and we can't replace him because we don't have bowlers of his quality and so we will have to play a different type of cricket but in adversity others get a chance to do well."

He disagreed Pakistan's pace attack was depleted with fit-again Mohammad Sami under more pressure.

"I don't think it would put Sami under pressure, it will give him a chance to become the strike bowler, he is due for some luck and hopefully take wickets when it matters."

Woolmer agreed with former Pakistan great Imran Khan that India were vulnerable on pace.

"Don't think about getting India out on spin, they played Australian Shane Warne with consummate ease and I tend to agree with Imran that they are more vulnerable on pace, people bowling in the right areas."

The Pakistan coach said scoring big in India would be vital.

"We haven't been convincing with the bat in Tests in the sense that we have not played long innings, something we must do in India and obviously India has the edge as they are very dangerous in batting.

"They can score big and in India if you score big the pitches deteriorate as they do there and assist spin so big scores are vital there."

On reports Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar was doubtful for the series due to an elbow injury, Woolmer said: "Tendulkar is a very fine player but if he is not playing other players always step in, his absence would mean it's one less great player to get out."