Wednesday, February 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Sehwag likely to come as opener

Harare, February 18
India face the moment of truth against Zimbabwe in a critical group ‘A’ match of the World Cup here tomorrow, a tie they must win to remain in contention for the Super Six round.

India are struggling to regroup and hit the right batting order in a desperate search for victory.

The team is in disarray and the morale has hit rock bottom following their embarrassing win against lowly Holland and a nine-wicket thrashing by defending champions Australia.

The usual bravado and jingoism was missing today as the Indian thinktank frantically groped for realistic strategies to turn the corner.

So skipper Saurav Ganguly may not after all open the innings and Virender Sehwag may be sent where he rightfully belongs, indicated coach Jonh Wright.

“We are certainly looking at options. We have worked hard for this competition,” said Wright ahead of India’s third pool A match.

Team sources also hinted that Sachin Tendulkar might once again yield the opener slot — this time to Dinesh Mongia — but nothing was certain.

“It’s all bit of uncertain at the moment. The thinktank is working hard to find the right combination,” they said.

Wright conceded he was getting increasingly worried about India’s inability to last 50 overs in the last nine innings.

“The manner of repetition of mistakes is disappointing. Two months before if you had asked any cricket follower he would have praised our batting. Now we have nine performances where we haven’t been able to finish the 50 overs... It has taken a hammering,” Wright said.

Zimbabwe are sitting pretty at the moment with eight points in their kitty — four earned against Namibia and another four from the cancelled match against England.

If India lose tomorrow, Zimbabwe’s chances of making it to the next stage would brighten while India will have to win all their remaining three matches against England, Namibia and Pakistan — a much difficult task given their current form —and hope some mathematical equation comes to their aid.

Realistically, it is a must-win situation for India tomorrow and the team is looking at all options.

All-rounder Sanjay Bangar, after sitting out of the first two matches, could make it to the playing eleven at the cost of woefully out-of-form Mohammad Kaif. Also the team might bolster the pace attack by including a third seamer to exploit the hardness of the pitch.

It would mean there would be a toss-up between Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. However, Harbhajan holds the edge as he played a crucial role with the bat in the match against Australia.

Though Ganguly himself restrained from making any comment on the strategy the team would employ, rival skipper Heath Streak was more forthcoming.

Streak was eyeing his team’s chances against the paper tigers and said his bowlers would test the opposition batting line-up with bouncy deliveries.

“It’s an opportunity for us to win the game and take a huge step towards the next round,” Streak said.

“We realise Indians do not have a good track record against bouncing deliveries. We would look to capitalise on this shortcoming of the visitors,” he said.

Streak was hopeful the wicket would assist his fast bowlers. “India have some excellent batsmen but then we also know teams like to test them with bouncing deliveries. We would like to use the conditions to our benefit.”

India have squared up to Zimbabwe at least once in the last five World Cups and have won six of the seven games with the lone defeat coming in the 1999 encounter at Leicester in England.

Speedster Henry Olonga had then caused a sensation by claiming three wickets in the final over of the match as India finished losers with a bare margin of three runs.

Teams (from):

India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Sanjay Bangar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar, Parthiv Patel, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan.

Zimbabwe: Heath Streak, Andy Blignaut, Dion Ebrahim, Sean Ervine, Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Travis Friend, Douglas Hondo, Douglas Marillier, Brian Murphy, Henry Olonga, Tatenda Taibu, Craig Wishart, Guy Whittall and Mark Vermeulen. PTI


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