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Cautious Indians face resurgent WI
- Yadav makes way for Srinath; Dravid fit, Sehwag uncertain

Nagpur: You can sense it from the new-found spring in their stride. Their dreams are taking shape and their confidence and attitude have undergone sea change.

Gone are the days when Carl Hooper was struggling to find words to describe the West Indies’ shabby performance. Eden Gardens and Jamshedpur seem to have been the right tonic for their sagging morale. Now they look forward to the one-day series with renewed hope and vigour.

“I’ve always believed that we always play much better in one-dayers than Tests. We have it in us to go and do well in the World Cup. The last-ball win in the opening game will serve as a launching pad for our preparations,” the West Indies skipper said on Friday.

For their part, the Indians are cautious. They are not taking anything for granted going into the second one-dayer. The stress has obviously been on going back to the drawing boards and identifying the grey areas.

“It was one of those games where we didn’t bowl well. It happens sometimes but we have to win here…,” said Sourav Ganguly. To set things in the right place, Jawagal Srinath will be back, Jai Prakash Yadav making way for the experienced pacer.

“It’s just that Srinath was rested. We have a few allrounders in the side and needed to try them out. He was always in our plans,” explained Sourav.

Coach John Wright echoed the skipper. “We are looking for a bowling allrounder ahead of the World Cup. It will not always be possible for the spinners to bowl 20 overs in South Africa.

“If Ajit Agarkar proves to be a success at No. 3, we can go in with five bowlers. We’ve been doing well in the slog overs but need to sort out a few problems in the first 15.”

The coach felt that giving the players a break would put them in the right spirits ahead of quadrennial showpiece. “Zaheer (Khan) and Sachin (Tendulkar) have already been rested because of niggling injuries. It’s important they arrive fresh and hungry in South Africa.”

Srinath’s presence Saturday will lend the balance and depth to the bowling. The wicket, expected to have some bounce, should come in handy for the strokemakers. But it will also aid some lateral movement in the first hour, factoring in the dew that sets in these parts during this time of the year.

More than the bowling, it is the fitness of Virender Sehwag that has kept the thinktank worried. The Delhi allrounder was down with fever and skipped this afternoon’s practice. While Sourav was confident he would be playing, Dinesh Mongia has been asked to keep himself ready as a last-minute replacement.

All is, however, well on the Rahul Dravid front. He had a stiff back but has recovered in time. Nonetheless, Parthiv Patel, who joined the side as a “cover” for Dravid, practised with the team on Friday.

Batting has not been India’s worry and Agarkar’s success in Jamshedpur will serve as a boost to the plans of trying him as a pinch-hitter. “It’s not the runs he scored that mattered but the way he batted,” remarked Sourav.

The Indian skipper — who joined the squad this morning — is only 34 runs short of completing 8000 runs is one-day Internationals and will be trying his luck at his ‘favourite’ ground. His 141 and four for 21 versus Sri Lanka in 1998-99 remains the best at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium.

“I need to score runs and also bowl a bit looking at the World Cup,” he said.

Like Sourav, Hooper’s form has also been an area of concern for his side. He, however, played it down this afternoon, laying the emphasis on “winning matches”.

“It is nice to be 1-0 up but we should keep in mind that we will be starting from scratch here. We have to aim to double the lead,” the visiting skipper added.

“We had a bit of a stumble in Jamshedpur towards the end because of the crowd-violence induced break. We lost the momentum but came back to wrap it up. It’s important we continue in the same vein,” Hooper said.

The positives, as he pointed out, have been the batting of Wavell Hinds, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Sameuls. But there has also been some worry over the fitness of Cameron Cuffy (hamstring strain), Pedro Collins (lower back injury) and the skipper himself (a niggle in the right knee). Corey Colleymore has been kept as stand-bye.

It has been a process of “ongoing treatment” for the trio and unless there’s a dramatic deterioration on their fitness, the visitors are unlikely to change their winning combination.

TEAMS

INDIA (likely): Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Ajit Agarkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Jawagal Srinath, Ashish Nehra.

WEST INDIES (likely): Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Carl Hooper, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ridley Jacobs, Mahendra Nagamatoo, Drakes, Mervyn Dillon, Pedro Collins/Colin Colleymore.

Umpires: K. Hariharan, Asoka de Silva.

Third umpire: A.V. Jayaprakash.

Hours of play: 9 am to 12.30 pm. 1 pm to 4.30 pm.

n Skerritt reassured with Nagpur security: Page 18

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