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Speeding bullet or Solid rock?

Shoaib, the world's fastest bowler, has been in electrifying form over the last two years, injuries and suspensions permitting.

The Rawalpindi Express has arguably been the world's most in-form fast bowler in that time frame. He has certainly been the most devastating.

India will undoubtedly have to watch out for the likes of Mohammad Sami and Shabbir Ahmed, but Shoaib is the heartbeat of Pakistan's pace attack.

He has taken 55 wickets at an average of 12.96 since April 2002, a testimony to how good he is when fit, and how much Pakistan miss him when he isn't.

They have won eight of 15 Tests since then, but lost only two of the nine that Shoaib has been involved in - and they were to Australia.

Not that his overall record fails to impress, as 117 wickets at 23.4 suggests.

It is just at the age of 28, Shoaib has finally furnished into the bowler he always threatened to be.

All top sportsmen want to match their wiles against the other greats of their discipline, and notably missing from Shoaib's CV - save for one Test over five years ago - is India.

Shoaib must have dined on memories of that contest in the Asian Test Championship in Calcutta ever since, as he led Pakistan to victory with match figures of 8-118.

Shoaib ended Tendulkar's superb World Cup knock with a bouncer

Things have not been so lean in the shorter form of the game, with the right-arm speedster facing his country's bitter rivals in 14 matches since his limited-overs debut in March 1998.

His record against them in that sphere is impressive, too, having taken 19 wickets in 14 matches.

Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly have all been dismissed multiple times by Shoaib, though it was India who laughed loudest on their last confrontation in last year's World Cup.

Tendulkar brutalised the fast bowler at Centurion, taking 18 runs off his first over and seeing him out of the attack after just three.

World Cup: Tendulkar inspires India

India were home and hosed by the time Shoaib returned to the attack, although he did produce an absolute brute of a riser to dismiss Tendulkar for 98 off 75 balls.

All of which brings us to India and where their batsmen are at ahead of the long-awaited series.

The top-order returned home from Australia with their lofty reputations intact, even enhanced given India's ordinary record on the road.

On their day, India's top six are equal to any attack in the world, but their discomfort against the rising ball was exposed in the one-day VB Series.

Pakistan pitches 'too slow'

It was felt in Australia that curators at the four Test venues produced pitches that were too docile, and it will be interesting to see the state of Pakistan's decks.

Shoaib slated Pakistani pitches after last year's Test series defeat of Bangladesh, saying "there was absolutely nothing in it for the bowlers and I took wickets just because of my sheer speed".

Lively surfaces will no doubt assist Shaoib and his pace allies, but India have already seen how explosive he can be with just an able body and the wind at his back.