The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India dig in for crucial fight

Jodhpur: It’s a do-or-die situation for India while the West Indies are basking in their new-found confidence after having achieved a 3-2 lead in the one-day series by winning in Vadodara.

The visitors would like to seal the series here itself on Thursday but Carl Hooper seems to be in favour of a cautious approach. “We would want to win here and clinch the series,” he said. ”But it’s not going to be easy… we expect a hard game.”

Rahul Dravid, standing in as skipper with Sourav Ganguly having been rested for the last two ODIs because of a back problem, however, is looking at it as a challenge. “I don’t look at this match as a pressure game, but as a challenge,” Dravid said after practice on Wednesday.

Despite Dravid’s brave face, the absence of Sourav at the top of the order will prove crucial for the side. In his absence, Dinesh Mongia is most likely to partner Virender Sehwag at the top of the order. “We’re missing some experienced players but it’s a great opportunity for everyone to stand up and deliver when the team needs it most,” was how Dravid summed up the changed dispensation.

The series has so far showcased some monumental run chases. The 325, which India managed in Ahmedabad last week being the third highest in one-day history. No side has won so far after batting first.

While the batsmen have had a picnic propping up stratospheric totals, the series is turning out to be a nightmare for the bowlers. Their fate isn’t expected to be any better on this pitch. “Nothing less than 270 will be competitive on this track,” the West Indies skipper said.

For their part, the Indians seem open to the idea of setting a target. “If we play good cricket, the toss shouldn’t really make much of a difference,” coach John Wright remarked.

The skipper, however, was non-committal. “I haven’t decided yet what we will do if we win the toss,” said Dravid. “The wicket looks good but it may have a lower bounce than the other tracks we’ve seen in this series. We’ll be able to judge it better on the morning of the match.”

The West Indian opening pair of Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds have proved to be quite destructive in this series and Dravid said his side was working on a few strategies to counter them. “Gayle gives you a few chances early in his innings. We have to hold on to them,” he said about the explosive batsman who has already struck three centuries in five matches in this series.

Besides Mongia replacing Sourav, the Indians are also likely to bring back Ajit Agarkar for Lakshmipathy Balaji. Harbhajan Singh, however, has a groin injury suffered in the last match and, in case, he is not fully fit, Sarandeep Singh will come in.

Sarandeep and Ajit Agarkar missed practice because their arrival from Mumbai was much after the team’s morning workout.

Without a doubt, it is the bowling that has been the primary cause for concern. Barring Jawagal Srinath, the seamers used in the series have proved to be easy meat for the Caribbean batsmen.

India, however, will take heart from Dravid’s flawless record as skipper. The 29-year-old led India to wins while standing in for Sourav in Rajkot against Zimbabwe two years ago and against Sri Lanka in Colombo last year. “I hope we carry on that winning run,” Dravid said.

While acknowledging that Sourav’s absence would be a boost, his opposite number maintained there was no room for complacency.

“Being the captain and a key member of the side, Sourav will certainly be missed but any other player who fills his shoes could do a good job. We can’t take afford to take any chances.”

According to manager Ricky Skerritt, the visitors are unlikely to make any changes to the team that played in Vadodara. However, Mervyn Dillon, who did not play the last game, will undergo a fitness test in the morning to determine his condition.

Jermaine Lawson, who was to join the team in place of an injured Ryan Hinds, has not arrived, having missed the flight. He will now join the team in New Delhi ahead of the final match in Vijaywada on Sunday.


India (likely): Rahul Dravid (captain), Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, Vangipurappu Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Sanjay Bangar, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh/Sarandeep Singh, Jawagal Srinath, Murali Kartik.

West Indies (likely): Carl Hooper (captain), Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ricardo Powell, Ridley Jacobs, Pedro Collins, Vasbert Drakes, Corey Collymore.

Umpires: Asoka de Silva, K.Hariharan.

Third umpire: I.Sivaram.

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