New Delhi:His perfect 10 at the same venue against the same opponents now cricketing lore, Anil Kumble would renew his tryst with Ferozeshah Kotla when he makes his debut as Indian captain in the first of the three Test matches against Pakistan starting on Thursday.
Given a choice, Kumble would have loved to roll the 22-yard Kotla strip, pack it in his bag and take it home after he claimed all 10 wickets in Pakistan's second innings in that unforgettable second Test in 1999.
Since then, Kumble has become one of the most senior players in the dressing room, and when he walks out for the toss with counterpart Shoaib Malik, he would expect the Kotla to be as benign as it was eight years ago.
The beginning, however, has not been auspicious. The bowling attack lost some of its teeth and firepower with the vastly improved R P Singh and highly inflammable S Sreesanth reduced to benchwarmers by injuries.
RP has been in red-hot form since the UK tour, while Sreesanth proved he is as much a wicket-taker with the ball as a rabble-rouser with his antics.
Though Munaf Patel and Ishant Sharma have been rushed in as cover, the void would be hard to fill. Till Munaf joined the squad, Kumble had at his disposal two pacers Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan against three spinners Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik and himself.
A look at the batting line-up, however, should restore the smile on Kumble's otherwise stoic face. The makeshift opening pair of Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik did wonders in English conditions and they have no real ground to fear the Pakistani attack on the docile Kotla track.
Rahul Dravid has abdicated captaincy to concentrate on his batting and if shrugging off the burden does him any good, none would be happier than his state mate Kumble.
Defying age seems a mission impossible for lesser mortals but Sachin Tendulkar continues to baffle and excite his detractors and fans.
Sourav Ganguly has been India's best Test batsman for a while and though runs did not exactly flow from his blade in the one-day series, the left-hander would like to make amends in the longer version of the game.
In a toss between the sizzling Yuvraj Singh and the sublime VVS Laxman for a place in the middle order, Kumble has hinted that Yuvraj will have to sit out for now.
Yuvraj has been the batting mainstay in the shorter version of the game but somehow has never managed to cement his place in the Test squad.
In contrast, Laxman did well in England and the wristy Hyderabadi might walk in at the expense of dashing Punjab left-hander.
Kumble can also take heart from the fact that wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni looks fine for the match.
Dhoni said the ankle injury he picked up in Jaipur has almost healed and there is no pain either.
Though Pakistan lost the ODI series 2-3, Malik insisted the win in the final match had put them at par with the Indian team.
He also claimed that having a new, separate Test captain would bring some problems with it for India and it remains to be seen how teammates respond to Kumble's captaincy.
Pakistan are happy with wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal recovering from a finger injury, even though his current form rather the lack of it might force the team management to blood rookie stumper Sarfraz Ahmed, who made his ODI debut in Jaipur.
Akmal, however, would be banking on his batting ability to retain his place in the side.
Though Salman Butt's form and Yasir Hameed's temperament should assure captain Shoaib Malik, the visitors would rely on seasoned customers Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousuf to guide the side, along with the skipper himself.
Malik came good only in the final ODI and though his side won the match, by then it was too late to alter the outcome of the series. Malik, still would love to continue the good work if he has to silence critics like Javed Miandad, who feel the captain has not led from the front.
Pakistani attack, however, looks impressive even though the slow and low Kotla track might render them ineffective.
Shoaib Akhtar is bowling around 150 kmph but that has not been able to get a bagful of wickets. Mohammad Sami's return and the presence of leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, however, would bolster the side, while Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir would add teeth to the attack.
Kotla curator Radheshyam Gupta insists it would be a result-oriented wicket and Kumble would hope it goes in his favour.
India: Anil Kumble (c), Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Munaf Patel and Ishant Shrma.
Pakistan: Shoaib Malik (c), Younus Khan, Abdur Rehman, Danish Kaneria, Faisal Iqbal, Kamran Akmal, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Yousuf, Salman Butt, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Yasir Hameed.
Umpires: Simon Taufel (Aus) and Billy Doctrove (WI)
Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SL)