Tunku Varadarajan -- Editorial Features (Oped) Editor with the Wall Street Journal, die-hard cricket fan, and a long time friend -- sent me this mail just now that analyzes the series from a slightly different perspective, and that I'll quote in full, for you to debate over:
An interesting exercise in advance of the Lahore test, in which many observers appear to have decided that Pakistan has the edge over India going in, is to put together a combined XI.
By my reckoning -- and I am one of those who is apprehensive about India's prospects -- the "superior" Pakistanis get only 4 of the 11 slots. Here is the XI:
2. Salman Butt
8. Irfan Pathan
10. Shoaib Akhtar
The points to make are:
(a) The fast bowling resources on both sides, even of the vaunted Pakistanis, are pretty thin. Shoaib is the only world-beater here. Irfan has to edge out Sami and Naved. Agarkar is a farce.
(b) Akmal gets the nod over Dhoni because he's a better keeper and has two Test tons, even though he lacks Dhoni's pyrotechnical testosterone.
(c) Laxman gets my vote over Mohammad Yousuf (neYouhana) & Younis Khan on the ineffable "class" factor.
(d) Kumble must be preferred to Kaneria, and Bhajji therefore trumps Kaneria for reasons of variety.
(e) This list proves nothing, except that India has a greater number of proven performers (on paper) than Pakistan. That said, Pakistan has the one outstanding performer in the niche that matters most in Tests, to wit, fast bowling --- and it is fair to say that, since 20 wickets must be taken to win a test, a champion fast bowler is worth more than any number of champion batsmen.
(f) The lack of penetrativeness of the Indian bowlers means that, even though the Pakistani batsmen may have poorer records on paper than the Indian ones, this will not be likely to matter as India hasn't the bowling to trouble them.
So the Pakistani batsmen's "stature" rises a notch, given the prospect of a relatively trouble-free time at the crease (compared to batting against, say, Australia or even England, against whom the Pakistani batsmen didn't fare too badly!)
(g) My bottom line: Shoaib Akhtar is the difference between the two sides.