| India captain Sourav Ganguly at a team talk during a break in practice at the Harare Sports Club Monday
Harare: It’s confirmed that Virender Sehwag will return to one of the opening slots, against Zimbabwe Wednesday, with the other retained by Sachin Tendulkar. Captain Sourav Ganguly has decided to bat at No. 4.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, the Sehwag-Dinesh Mongia option got shelved as “those who matter” felt Sachin, top-scorer in the matches versus Holland (52) and Australia (36), shouldn’t be disturbed. In the team’s interests, then, Sourav has decided to bat in the middle order.
The openers (as of late Monday) will be followed by Mongia, Sourav, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif. Among bowlers, only Jawagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan are sure of taking the field at the immaculately maintained Harare Sports Club. Of course, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh will also keep their place if the 2-2 attack is retained.
However, if an extra seamer is needed, then Ashish Nehra is likely to get the nod and either Kumble/Harbhajan will have to miss the first in a never-ending series of crucial games. Nehra’s fine showing at the Club, during the summer of 2001 tour, has brought him into the picture (ahead of initial ‘frontrunner’ Ajit Agarkar).
Nehra claimed four for 72 and two for 45 in that infamous second Test. Besides, he got wickets in the tri-series matches. In any case, the Club pitch (which had a greenish look Monday afternoon) generally isn’t unkind towards the speed merchants.
If Nehra has come into the reckoning because of the history-factor, it’s the past performance card which is helping Kaif keep his berth. He should be dropped, on current form, but will stay for one more time.
“Look, Kaif had a brilliant unbeaten 111 when we last played Zimbabwe (Champions Trophy) and, so, will be fielded here. But, yes, it’s going to be his last chance,” informed a member of the thinktank.
Incidentally, it rained late in the afternoon, but nobody quite had the forecast for Wednesday.
‘Too aggressive too early’
In coach John Wright’s opinion, being “too aggressive too early” is one of the reasons for India’s poor form. He added: “For the past nine games, we haven’t succeeded in playing out the 50 overs. That, at the moment, is our priority...”
Visibly pained by the appalling show, especially against Australia, Wright asked the one question doing the rounds everywhere: “Till when will this under-performing continue'” Well, he is hopeful the turnaround will begin at the Harare Sports Club.
Of the top teams in Pool A, India are the only one with a minus (0.36) NRR. Zimbabwe are at the top (plus 3.42), ahead even of Australia.
Meanwhile, speaking exclusively, Zimbabwe coach Geoff Marsh said: “We’re taking it one match at a time and are aware of what the Indians are capable of.”