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Sachin, Harbhajan, Bangar out for today

Auckland: Three key players, including Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh, were Wednesday declared unfit for the first ODI versus New Zealand here Thursday. This is a serious setback for a beleaguered Indian team seeking to put behind the disappointment of the Test series with a good showing in the ODIs.

Tendulkar had sprained his right ankle while bowling at nets Tuesday, while Harbhajan developed “some problem” in his bowling hand, team officials said. And, as if that wasn’t enough, all-rounder Sanjay Bangar has not recovered from a knee injury he sustained on the last day of the second Test in Hamilton.

Sachin was also doubtful for the second match in Napier Sunday, team physio Andrew Leipus said. Harbhajan’s “problem” is a “long-standing” injury, team manager Nathu Ram Choudhary said. But he was definitely “on” for the second match, he said.

With medium-pacer Rakesh Patel, one of the four players — with Jawgal Srinath, Anil Kumble and Yuvraj Singh — called for the one-day series, yet to join the team, the Indians are struggling to put together an XI to take on a pumped-up home side.

Patel was scheduled to leave India Wednesday night.

The 12 able-bodied men available for Thursday’s game include all the four medium pacers — Ajit Agarkar, Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra — and wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel. According to all available indications, Patel would be asked to make his one-day debut considering the thin batting line-up India are left with.

Despite India’s woeful batting display in the Test series, the national selectors paid no heed to the crying need for including an additional batsman in the one-day squad and the result is that there are not enough batsmen in the side for Thursday’s game.

Even after the news of the injury of the three players, there is no second thought being given to hold on to at least a couple of cricketers who are returning home Thursday after the Test series.

With Parthiv almost a certainty for Thursday’s game, the diminutive 17-year-old will most likely do the duties behind the wickets. As such, India’s batting is precariously placed and have a Herculean task ahead in putting up a decent total on the board.

Thursday’s match is being played on a drop-in pitch which is said to be consistent in pace and very helpful to the faster bowlers.

New Zealand, on the other hand, are much better organised and well prepared to carry their dominance into the seven- match one-day series. So clear are they about their strategy that they have decided to leave out paceman Darryl Tuffey — Man of the Series in Tests.

Tuffey will yield his place to Kyle Mills who is quicker and is expected to make better use of a bouncy portable pitch at Eden Park.

New Zealand will thus go into the game with a battery of fast bowlers — Shane Bond, Jacob Oram, Mills and Paul Hitchcock.

Wicketkeeper batsman Brendon McCullum, who has a formidable reputation as a fierce striker of the ball, has been drafted in the side while Matthew Sinclair is expected to lend his experience to the batting line-up.

TEAMS

India (from): Sourav Ganguly (capt.), Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Parthiv Patel, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Jawagal Srinath, Anil Kumble.

New Zealand: Stephen Fleming (capt.), Nathan Astle, Mathew Sinclair, Craig McMillan, Lou Vincent, Brendon McCullum, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills, Daryl Tuffey, Shane Bond, Paul Hitchcock.

Umpires: Brent Bowden and Asoka de Silva.

Third Umpire: Doug Cowie

Hours of play (IST): 6.30 am to 10 am, 10.40 am to 2.10 pm.

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