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Sourav praise for Balaji, Salvi

Calcutta: Amid all the fanfare and interest surrounding the Indian cricket team, a small problem is still bothering the captain. And Sourav Ganguly is forthright in admitting that he is trying to work out a combination which gives him an extra bowler.

He has two options: A wicketkeeper who can bat or a bowling allrounder. Parthiv Patel, Ajay Ratra and V.S. Thilak Naidu did the job behind the stumps for the three teams in the Challenger Series, but the captain hinted he may look beyond the trio. “We have a few names in mind, need to see these guys in a few matches.”

Sourav was at a city hotel on Monday afternoon, where it was announced he will feature as anchor and co-host in a new cricket show on ESPN-STAR Sports. He possibly becomes the first playing captain to take part in such a programme in this capacity.

The India captain added it’s important to find out a solution to this problem before the Australia tour later this year. “It gives us an option of playing five bowlers and I believe in fielding five specialists here, since you have to take 20 wickets to win a Test.

“Sanjay Bangar took some load off the regular bowlers in England where he opened the batting. So we need either a wicketkeeper who can contribute with the bat or an allrounder. We hope to sort this out before the New Zealand series gets over.”

The skipper said he is expecting a fight from Stephen Fleming’s team against whom India will play two Tests and a tri-series after that also involving Australia. “They did well in Sri Lanka and are a tough side. But in Sri Lanka it was largely a question of facing one Muttiah Muralidharan. “Here, we have Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble — two of the best in business. So New Zealand will face a different test against us.”

Sourav said the preparation for the season ahead has been very satisfying. “It was completely different… It’s gone to a different level. In cricket, it’s said the way you prepare the way you play. We have worked hard in recent times and also got the results. In fact, a player told me he could have ended with 2000 more Test runs had he undergone this kind of training.”

He said the Challenger Series has thrown up a few more options. “S. Sriram, Hemang Badani and Rohan Gavaskar did well. Among bowlers, L. Balaji and Avishkar Salvi stood out. Balaji ended up being on the wrong side in his first brush with international cricket, but that was a bad series for most bowlers. And it was good to see Yuvraj score some quality runs after he had a tough time in Yorkshire.”

With Ashish Nehra unlikely to be available for the Test series versus New Zealand and Jawagal Srinath almost ruled out, Sourav is looking for a new ball partner for Zaheer Khan.

The skipper noted the team’s performance overseas has improved of late.

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