| Andrew Flintoff fine-tunes soccer skills on Tuesday
Durban: For the now in the Indiansí Now or Never theme to surge towards realisation, full points are an absolute must in Wednesdayís Pool A game against England. It will, after all, be dicey to leave everything for the last league match, versus Pakistan, in Centurion.
The keenness among the Indians, then, is understandable. And, whatís encouraging is that they looked relaxed during (and after) the last workout before the match, Tuesday afternoon.
Yet, itís not going to be easy and the way the specially minted coin lands could make a difference at Kingsmead. Generally, the toss isnít much of a factor in ODIs during the day. However, it can become critical in a day-night game. Indications are it will be very much so here.
For one, the weather has been unpredictable. Then, the Indians havenít yet played under lights in this edition of the World Cup. Finally, the wicket is known to be mean towards the best of batsmen. Significantly, there was reasonable grass till the afternoon.
The toss, therefore, adds to the hyped-up ambience and the match wonít be just another league engagement. In any case, it canít, because the four points will put the winning teamís Super Six hopes into overdrive.
Itís a classic case of simultaneously looking at the present and the immediate future. Clearly, if conditions are ideal, setting a target ought to be the preferred Ďrouteí.
The recent one-to-ones have seen India emerge convincing winners but, as captain Sourav Ganguly pointed out, the past has little place in a one-day game. Moreover, as opposite number Nasser Hussain put it: ďThere will be key moments and moments of pressure. The team which handles it (pressure) better, will come off best.Ē
The toss apart, the first 15 overs (for both teams) will surely have a huge bearing. Indeed, itís an unusual coincidence that the top two in the race for the Man of the Tournament award, Sachin Tendulkar (seven points) and Jimmy Anderson (six points) will confront each other straightaway.
Both have been adjudged MoM twice, but itís no guarantee they alone will again play the lead role. There are enough contenders. Incidentally, it will be the Indiansí first encounter with the gifted Lancashire quick.
As reported by The Telegraph, the Indians will prefer to retain the XI which did duty in Harare (against Zimbabwe) and Pietermaritzburg (versus Namibia). The problem, though, centres around Ashish Nehra.
While Sourav insisted Nehraís recovery (from a ligament sprain on his left ankle) has been ďgood,Ē itís still not certain whether the left-armer will figure in the XI. If the recovery isnít complete, Ajit Agarkar will get his first match.
Again, there wonít be a place for Anil Kumble. ďAs captain, Iíve got to keep taking hard decisions,Ē Sourav remarked, amply conveying itís tough omitting his most experienced bowler.
Unless forced otherwise, England too will like to keep faith in the XI which gave Pakistan a walloping at Newlands. The only doubt is over the brilliant Michael Vaughan. He trained with the squad, Tuesday afternoon, but fielding him could be risky. Vaughan had the recurrence of a right calf muscle injury during the Pakistan game.
ďHussain and the coach (Duncan Fletcher) seem desperate to play Vaughan... If the gamble works, he will probably be rested against Australia,Ē informed a source close to the England camp.
That, of course, is likely to be the only gamble. With so much at stake, it wonít surprise if the approach of both teams, generally, is conventional. Itís the sharpness which will garner four points.
Left to Durbanites, the winner has already been identified: India.
India: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Dinesh Mongia, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra/Ajit Agarkar.
England (likely): Nick Knight, Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan, Nasser Hussain, Alec Stewart, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Craig White, Ashley Giles, Andy Caddick, James Anderson.
Umpires: Rudi Koertzen, Simon Taufel.
Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle.
Match starts: 6.00 pm (IST).