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August - September 2004

India Sport Scene

Cricket - Can India Dominate Again?

by Ramesh Seedhar

Indian cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly has stated that the left handed batsman Yuvraj Singh would be the first choice to open with Virendra Shewag in test matches. Shewag who never used to open before in domestic game has done amazing well an opener since he opened for India.

Ganguly said that Yuvraj is class act and he has got the ability to open in test matches. A player of his stature and ability should not be kept out of the team, and there is slot for him as an opener. At the moment the first choice partner for Shewag is Yuvraj. Looking at the way he has got used to the International cricket and the number of games he has won for the country, he is our first choice but if he does not do well then we will have to think of somebody else.

The 22 year old Yuvraj Singh has been regarded as a one day specialist. However earlier this year, when selected to replace injured Ganguly he scored a brilliant 112 against Pakistan in the second test at Lahore. Recently Akash Chopra and Virendra Shewag have been regularly opening for India but Chopra has been criticised for his inability to score runs quickly. Chopra was dropped from playing in the eleven to accommodate Ganguly when he returned to the team for the final test against Pakistan at Rawalpindi while Yuvraj was retained.

In one day tests, Ganguly said that the Vice Captain Rahul Dravid will continue to keep wickets. Rahul Dravid has helped the team in terms of balance and batting depth. If you can find somebody who can do the job as good as Dravid has done in the past two years for the team, only then we might have to start thinking, but at the moment he is doing such a wonderful job that we must stick with him. Ganguly also did not rule out the possibility of him opening in the shorter version of the game. The opening of the innings in the one day tests will revolve around Sachin Tendulkar, Shewag and me.

We will see how it goes, what is the form of Sachin Tendulkar, how well I am playing and then decide what suits the team. Naming the coming season as an important one Ganguly said that India has six test matches lined up. Four test matches against Australia and another two against South Africa. It is a big season and we have to be fit and that is what the fitness camp is for. We have played as a team over the last two years and we need to improve on that and get better, I think that most of boys are playing their best cricket. I hope they will continue it for the next three to four years. When asked whether India will be able to dominate both Australia and South Africa Ganguly replied let us see how well we play but he could not see any reason why we could not dominate.

He said that the pace bowlers camp was meant to ensure that bowlers like Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Ajit Agarkar, and Avishkar Salvi were fit and strong, as fast bowlers have an important role to play in the overseas test series. He underscored the need to have a group of seven to eight seamers ready all the time and not just for the tests against Australia and South Africa.

Ganguly said that it was good to have Kapil Dev around with the fast bowlers. Kapil Dev's experience and greatness will obviously help the boys quite a bit. He was looking forward to Harbhajan Singh's return to the squad in time for the series against Australia. Harbhajan is a match winner. Anil Kumble is also a great bowler and at present is bowling at its best. These are our two main spinners, with Murali Kartik coming up. When questioned whether there should have been a similar emphasis of a training camp for spinners similar to that being run for fast bowlers, Ganguly said that if anybody can bowl better than Kumble and Harbhajan then they are most welcome. You never play more than two spinners at home. I never believe in playing three spinners at the moment. Somebody has got to be exceptionally well to play ahead of Anil and Harbhajan. Ganguly said off spinner Harbhajan Singh who had been out of action for more than six months and Zaheer Khan who has been beset with hamstring injuries of late have are now both fit.

Sachin Tendulkar said that it would be a difficult choice between Akash Chopra and Yuvraj to partner Virendra Shewag in tests. Responding to the question of Ganguly's preference for Yuvraj as an opener Tendulkar said that it will be a difficult decision. Either way somebody is going to miss out. Both Akash and Yuvraj are equally good. If you pick Yuvraj you lose out on a very good opener and if you pick Akash you lose somebody who is an exceptionally talented player. It is a very tricky situation. It is important to know what the role of the individual is and my personal opinion is that Chopra has done exceedingly well as an opener on tough tours of Australia and Pakistan In the recent past he is probably one of the best opening batsman and he did not look out of place at all. He looked very confident, solid and mentally tough. That is what you require as an opener. He added that Yuvraj has not opened in tests but he is an exceptionally talented player.

India's coach John Wright has said that the opening problem did not arise now since India was not playing a Test series. Commenting on the opening slot controversy John Wright said that his views are that the decision should be left to Captain Sourav Ganguly. "Various people will have various opinions on the issue but it eventually boils down to the captain as to who should what" he said

Both Chopra and Yuvraj Singh have huge credentials. Chopra had done a fantastic job in Australia and his fielding was possibly the best and as for Yuvraj, he has also proved very well.

"But as a Coach, I am going to watch the situation and performance of the players for two months and then give my observations to the selectors and the captain before the test series starts in October against Australia.John Wright also gave a warning to other teams in the Asia Cup saying that his team had done various research on the opposition teams and was keyed up to start the new season on a positive note. The Indian team left Chennai on 13th July for Sri Lanka to take part in the Asia Cup that starts on 16th July.

Pakistan's pace bowler Shoaib Akhtar is having second thoughts about reporting for the Asia Cup training camp in Lahore as he says he has been hurt and disturbed by statements made by the captain Inzamam ul Haq and Pakistan Cricket Board. Sources close to the bowlers have said that Shoaib was disturbed after reading a statement attributed to Inzamam. According to the report Inzamam had said that Shoaib had cost Pakistan more defeats than victories and that he would personally supervise his fitness. Sources close to Shoaib have said that Shoaib was upset after repeatedly reading statements from the Board officials that Shoaib would only be considered for the Asia Cup provided he was fit and would get no preferential treatment. Shoaib was at a loss to understand why some board officials and Inzamam are undermining his reputation and give the impression that they are not happy in having him in the training camp for the Asia Cup.

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