The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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This could be one of our hardest tours: Fleming

Ahmedabad: With Indians seeking revenge for the humiliating defeat in the two-Test series against New Zealand last year, New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming Monday said the forthcoming Test series against India could be one of the “hardest tours” for his team.

“It could be one of the hardest tours that our team has taken. It’s going to be a great challenge, especially after what happened to India in New Zealand,” he told reporters here.

Fleming said, his boys had relished the experience (playing in India) so far, but “the tri-series after two Test matches could be a different story”. The skipper said his team is looking forward to an exciting tri-series, involving Australia as the third team, starting later this month.

Meanwhile, Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly said the two Tests would be a good learning experience for India’s two new fast bowlers.

Asked whether India will miss the services of experienced speedsters like Jawagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra, Sourav said: “We can’t help it... But the series will be a good experience for two talented debutant fast bowlers Laxmipathi Balaji and Avishkar Salvi.”

Four-pronged attack

By the way it looks, India could go into the first Test with four regular bowlers with coach John Wright banking on the bowling skills of part-timers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly to make up for the fifth bowler’s slot.

Wright said he was confident of the capabilities of the likes of Sourav and Sachin who could “win a match with the ball too.”

“Sachin can be a match-winner with the ball. He had fantastic spells in both challenger as well as Irani Cup recently,” Wright said ahead of the first Test starting here Wednesday.

“This would be the best opportunity for players like Sourav, who has improved his pace, and Virender Sehwag and Sachin to be used as bowlers as only four frontline bowlers would be playing in the first Test,” Wright said.

He said the two spinners — Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh — would be playing, but added that the inclusion of a third spinner in Sairaj Bahutule was also not ruled out. The playing XI will be finalised tomorrow night.

On the new opening combination he said Sehwag had already proved himself and got runs as an opener while Akash Chopra too was in fine form being among runs in the three-day matches. Wright said though it was “pretty hot”, these conditions would not be a problem as “we are used to this kind of weather.”

The coach said the Indian think-tank had not insisted on preparation of any particular kind of wicket for the first Test. “We have not given any such instruction... Generally, the wicket at the Motera has been very good and it has produced some tremendous Test matches in the past and we expect a sporting wicket this time as well.”

On New Zealand coach Ashley Ross’ statement that his team had plans for every Indian player, Wright said: “Every team has plans, we have ours and they have theirs, but the most important thing is that it should work on the field, which is not always easy.

The execution of plans to perfection during matches is the toughest part,” Wright said while stressing the team was not to bothered by what the opposition might be planning.

Pacemen Laxmipathy Balaji and Avishkar Salvi, who were in Sri Lanka for a three-nation tournament, have joined the team and took part in the practice session Monday. Both were seen bowling to captain Sourav at nets.

The two umpires — David Shepherd of England and Rudy Koerzen of South Africa were also in the thick of things at the Indian nets. Shepherd was seen taking Sachin’s autograph on a cricket bat.

Ross said he was not worried by the fact that his frontline batsmen could not get big scores in the lead-up matches to the first cricket Test and was confident of them hitting form when it really mattered.

After nets Ross said: “We are not too worried about Nathan (Astle), Scott Styris and skipper Stephen Fleming not getting big scores as they are quality players and can strike form any time. Our preparation is going on the right track and we believe in our batsmen’s ability to perform in Test matches.” (PTI)

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