The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav likely at No. 3
- Leipus keeps fingers crossed on Zaheer

Bangalore: Though the in-form V. V. S.Laxman opened in Cuttack, against New Zealand, the dasher from Hyderabad is expected to bat at No.4 in Wednesday’s tri-series game here, versus Australia.

After all, with Virender Sehwag available, the task of launching Team India’s innings will rest on him and Sachin Tendulkar. Captain Sourav Ganguly, returning after being off the circuit for a month, should take the No.3 position.

As of now, Laxman will be followed by Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif. The four specialist bowlers are going to be Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra.

Of course, if Zaheer (who has a chest infection and reported a day late, on Monday) is unfit, Ajit Agarkar will keep his berth — otherwise, Nehra’s comeback is going to be at his expense. The left-arm quick’s last appearance was in the World Cup final, almost eight months ago. He underwent surgery, on his right ankle, in mid April.

“Zaheer bowled this afternoon but, then, an infection is a medical thing... We must keep fingers crossed,” physio Andrew Leipus told The Telegraph.

He confirmed both Sourav and Sehwag were fit, but added: “I’ll be putting the captain through a few more things tomorrow (Tuesday)..."

While Sourav is returning after two minor surgeries, Sehwag twisted an ankle before the Cuttack match. Incidentally, Kumble is also making a comeback — he didn’t play the last game (against New Zealand) owing to his father’s demise.

It will be terrific if India beat Australia and New Zealand (in Hyderabad, on November 15), as that will straightaway earn them a ticket for the November 18 final. However, in the event the world champions — already in the title-round — can’t be defeated, then the Black Caps simply have to be beaten.

“Gosh, it’s such a crunch week,” quipped coach John Wright. It definitely is and, thankfully, the best XI (assuming Zaheer is available on Wednesday) can be fielded for the first time in this tournament.

Wright, incidentally, had to tackle Pakistan-specific questions at a Media interaction during the day. He spoke of having had “a feel of the intensity” during the World Cup face-off in Centurion but, clearly, he remains focussed on the tri-series.

Formal announcement

Meanwhile, Percept D’Mark formally announced the renewal of their contract with Sourav. The five-year deal is understood to be in the region of Rs 60 crore. In effect, the Team India captain is guaranteed that sum from endorsements.

The Percept-Sourav partnership began in 2000.

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