India in Pakistan.
India and Pakistan begin their third series in two years today with the first test in Lahore. After two interesting series (the first in Pakistan in 2004 and the second in India in 2005) this one promises to be a great series once again. India having won one of them and drawn the other, will like to continue their non-losing streak. Pakistan, on the other hand, will definitely be seeking out a revenge for their home defeat in 2004.
In a way, this series promises much more excitement than the last two. The last two were highlighted as much for their political implications as for their cricketing interest and Pakistan team was off-color in both of them, though they performed credibly in the series in India coming back in both ODIs and Tests. In this series though every one talks only about cricket and politics has, correctly, disappeared from the considerations. Moreover, Pakistan is looking very good this time and both teams are lot more evenly matched.
It will be the first big challenge for the new Indian team management, particularly the new coach and the new captain. This transformation of guard in the team has been very rough and caused lot of unpleasantness for all concerned. But I believe these changes happened for the good and the Indian team has a great opportunity to become a real force in world cricket with this set up. And this series will be very important in that process. Dravid and Chappel give the impression of attempting to bring much needed method and professionalism to this team and one hopes that their efforts will have a long term positive impact on the team.
As for this particular series, apart from the natural importance attached to India-Pakistan series, there is much for both teams to play for. India will try to firm their second place in the official test rankings and Pakistan will attempt to improve their current fourth position, though only a 3-0 victory will better their position (to third). It will be a significant series for them and a good test for the newly found spirit in the team, after their convincing victory against England.
There will be many individuals to watch out for. For Pakistan, there is the rejuvenated Shoaib Akthar and the majestic Inzamam. For India Dravid holds the key and Tendulkar in form can be decisive. One hopes that Sehwag can break his jinx of 40s and regain some of the form he showed in the last Pakistan tour. Ganguly will present a difficult problem for the Indian management, but I think he should be left out of the team. It is very unfortunate but that hard decision has to be made with an eye on the future.
Personally, this series excites me as no other in recent times. I am really looking forward to it and hope to watch most of it. Naturally I will be rooting majorly for India and will be devastated if India does not do well. Still I sincerely wish that we will have great cricket played by both teams (with India winning in the end).