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Fast bowling must improve: Sourav
- Kartik, Pathan may have role to play in decider at SCG l Option of five-bowler gamble open
Brett Lee has promised more aggression in the final Test
Sourav feels India have moved forward as a team in 2003

Sydney: Whether it was the year’s first engagement (an ODI in Christchurch) or the last (MCG Test), Team India finished second best. Yet, in between, there were 24-carat performances and memorable wins. But, as captain Sourav Ganguly pointed out, lessons must be learnt.

“As a team, we’ve moved forward... We’ve become better players. However, there must be an improvement in our fast bowling. Moreover, we’ve got to play the finals better,” Sourav told The Telegraph on Wednesday evening, drawing attention to the big defeats in the title-round of the World Cup and the recent tri-series.

On both occasions, Australia walked away with the booty.

Speaking before preparing to catch the spectacular fireworks display in the harbor area, an extravaganza which considerably adds to the local population around this time of the year, he added: “To move forward even more, we’ll have to be consistent... In fact, the series-deciding Test (from Friday) will give us another opportunity to stand up and be counted...”

Reflecting on 2003, Sourav picked deputy Rahul Dravid’s epic 233 in the first innings of the Adelaide Test as the No. 1 performance. Next came Sachin Tendulkar’s record-shattering run in the World Cup, where he totalled 673. The No. 3 spot went to V.V.S. Laxman’s 148, also in Adelaide.

As for his own best, the captain chose the 144 scored in the first innings of the Brisbane Test.

Looking ahead, specifically to the Test here, Sourav indicated he wouldn’t be averse to fielding two spinners (Murali Kartik being the second) if the SCG wicket was dry. Kartik, then, will take the injured Zaheer Khan’s slot. Actually, there could be another change, with Irfan Pathan brought back in place of Ashish Nehra.

Apparently, there’s even talk of gambling with five bowlers. If that does materialise, the playing XI will see a big shake-up: Lakshmipathy Balaji assuming the fifth spot, with Akash Chopra omitted. Parthiv Patel, too, won’t be there and the big gloves will be worn by dual-role man Deep Dasgupta.

Well, it’s to be seen what permutation is decided upon...

Given that the third Test ended on Tuesday and the team travelled in the morning, the day’s nets session was optional. And, so, just four players — Chopra, Kartik, Pathan and Balaji — had a workout.

The Australians arrived a few hours later. With good reasons, all the attention is on Sydney’s favourite son of the present times, Steve Waugh. Only, speedster Brett Lee, another New South Welshman, won’t exactly go totally unnoticed.

[Incidentally, reacting to Steve’s comment that he didn’t want to bow out a losing captain, Sourav retorted: “I can understand his sentiments... Who wants to leave on a losing note'”]

For his part, Lee promised more aggression in the decider. “I dropped my pace at the MCG because the wicket was slow. Here, though, I’ll be much quicker and more aggressive,” he declared moments after landing.

Lee, who picked up four wickets (two in each innings) in his latest comeback, said he was “reasonably happy” with that effort. Of course, he made the point that all his victims were top guns — Sachin and Sourav in the first; Virender Sehwag and Dravid in the second.

Meanwhile, expectedly, Lee has been brought back into the one-day squad for the upcoming tri-series as well. Also in the XIII, for the first four matches, is Jason Gillespie. Excluded from the squad, which won the tri-series in India, are Brad Williams, Jimmy Maher and Michael Kasprowicz.

The tri-series begins in Melbourne on January 9, with the world champions facing the beaten finalists.

AUSTRALIA’s odi XIII

Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Michael Bevan, Andrew Bichel, Nathan Bracken, Michael Clarke, Jason Gillespie, Ian Harvey, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds.

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