Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir in his sights on a Mohali wicket that will offer some bounce.
In-form Pakistan bowler Gul will go at India's top order
MOHALI // Umar Gul, Pakistan's in-form fast bowler, has set his sights on ripping through Sachin Tendulkar and the India top order in tomorrow's World Cup semi-final.
Gul has taken the new ball in each of Pakistan's last three games and now wants the wickets of India's top three, Virender Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir.
"I think definitely the first three wickets are crucial, the top order," Gul said. "I'm looking for these three batsmen."
Tomorrow's match is expected to come down to a duel between Pakistan's in-form bowlers and India's formidable batting line-up. Against Australia, Gul dismissed Shane Watson, the opener, to set Pakistan on their way to a four-wicket win.
In the quarter-final against the West Indies, Gul again struck with the new ball to prevent Chris Gayle, the West Indies danger man, making an impact.
"For the last two to three years, Waqar Younis [the Pakistan coach] has been telling me to get prepared to use the new ball in the World Cup," Gul said. "I have returned to my best form by bowling with the new ball again."
Gul's ability to produce reverse swing with the older ball has proved equally threatening. The 26-year-old has taken 14 wickets in the tournament, making he and Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan captain, two of the most productive bowlers at the World Cup.
"I always enjoy my bowling, especially against India," Gul said. "At the moment I'm feeling really well, I'm in my peak form and I'm feeling very well."
Gul has taken on India in 12 one-day internationals, with a best return of four for 57 at Dhaka in 2008, but the highlight of his career against Pakistan's fiercest rival came in the 2003/04 Test series when he claimed the wickets of Sehwag, Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman and finished with five for 31 to help his team level the series in Lahore.
With India's batsmen generally comfortable against spin, pace could make the difference tomorrow. Gul just hopes that the pitch at Mohali's PCA Stadium is as helpful to quick bowlers, as it has been in the past.
"The pitch has a little grass on it," he said. "We hope that it helps a little bounce as in the past, but we will have to wait and see how it is tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Afridi accused the Indian media of conducting a negative campaign against his team.
"There is so much negativity in the Indian media. There is nothing positive to watch on the channels and we are just sticking together as a team and it is just the hotel and ground for us," Afridi told the Geo News channel.
He also expressed disappointment at remarks from Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, about the government keeping a close watch on the players in the semi-final because of last year's spot-fixing scandal. "I don't think he should have said such a thing at such a time," Afridi said.