The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rain threat to India's opener
- It's going to be Kumble versus Agarkar

Southampton: It was in the 2000 ICC KnockOut, the Champions Trophy precursor, that Sourav Ganguly and Team India got a fillip. With the side not doing justice to its star rating in recent times, many hope the latest mini World Cup will actually give another boost.

Kenya did push India in the Super Six stage of the last World Cup and also made the semi-finals but, even without Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav's team has enough ammunition to make the Steve Tikolo-led Kenyans stop being ambitious.

In any case, the Kenyans have more problems than the ODIs they get to play each year (none, by the way, in 2004) ' the latest being the exile of former captain Maurice Odumbe for more than rubbing shoulders with an Indian bookie.

The Kenyans' lack of exposure, by the way, has been a problem for the Indian thinktank. After all, much of the footage aimed at facilitating strategy has been drawn from the 2003 World Cup. An update, so to say, came from the Kenyans' warm-up game on Thursday.

While the quality of the opposition isn't really a worry, the Indians are definitely concerned about the weather: It rained for much of Friday, affecting nets, and the forecast is anything but sunny for Saturday.

Of course, a reserve day is there for all Champions Trophy matches, but nobody wishes to cut things too fine.

As was suggested would happen, by The Telegraph, specialist wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik is going to play. Indeed, it's only because of the weather that the XI hasn't been finalised ' the toss-up, though, is between Anil Kumble and Ajit Agarkar.

If conditions are overcast then, obviously, Agarkar will be the third seamer (after Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra). Otherwise, it's going to be a 2-2 attack, with Kumble keeping Harbhajan Singh company.

To talk of Karthik, he is getting the opportunity of a lifetime. He played at Lord's, on Sunday, but featuring in the XI at the Rose Bowl here will have a bigger significance.

One expects vice-captain Rahul Dravid too to pray for the teenager's success as he stands to 'benefit' as well. Apparently, Karthik is set to be played in the practice game (ahead of the match with Pakistan) in Birmingham too.

So, for now, there appears to be a dramatic rethink on the seven-batsman formula.

As is to be expected, the Kenyans won't lose much sleep over their combination ' priority being to give a decent account of themselves. Incidentally, Sandeep Patil's successor as coach is former Warwickshire opener Andy Moles.


India: Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S.Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Dinesh Karthik, Ajit Agarkar/Anil Kumble, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra.

KENYA: Steve Tikolo, Kennedy Otieno, Ravindu Shah, Hitesh Modi, Thomas Odoyo, Ragheb Aga, Martin Suji, Peter Ongondo, Tony Suji, Maurice Ouma, Brijal Patel

Umpires: Daryl Harper, Rudi Koertzen

Match Referee: Clive Lloyd

Match starts: 2.45 pm (IST).

ICC's okay

It was an absolute formality but, for whatever it is worth, the ICC has okayed Rohan Gavaskar being Sachin's replacement. Now, the Amit Bhandari 'processing' is going to start.

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