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India, WI in virtual semi-final today
- Uncertainty over Chanderpaul; Laxman out of contention

Colombo: With acting captain Sylvester Joseph’s inspirational moves halting Sri Lanka’s run in the IndianOil Cup, the West Indies’ face-off with India, on Sunday, has become a virtual semi-final.

This do-or-perish scenario is hardly new, though.

Rahul Dravid’s team is ahead by three points (eight vis-'-vis five), but that’s of no relevance: The winner qualifies for Tuesday’s final against the hosts. There’s a reserve day-provision as well.

Having surprised the pundits, on Saturday, the West Indies will be aiming for a repeat. However, conditions here aren’t as pleasant as Dambulla and a double-header is going to be terribly demanding.

Physically and in the mind.

It’s to be seen, then, whether the West Indies can carry the momentum a shade over 16 hours after stunning Sri Lanka. Even if they don’t, they have at least put an end to the demoralising string of one-day defeats ' as many as 11.

Significantly, till late at night, captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s availability wasn’t clear. He scored a solid half-century, but didn’t take the field owing to a “viral infection”.

Chanderpaul wasn’t well even before the toss.

“I wouldn’t say there’s too much to worry... At the same time, I can’t confirm I will play ' it’s another matter that I would like to,” Chanderpaul told The Telegraph.

Now that the stakes are sky-high, Dravid and Greg Chappell are unlikely to experiment as the best XI has to be out on the (Premadasa) park.

It’s not official, but one learns V.V.S.Laxman, who struggled in his comeback ODI (on Wednesday), isn’t in the XIII informally shortlisted after Saturday evening’s team meeting.

Others out of the frame are teenaged Suresh Raina, who featured in the three previous engagements, and Yalaka Venugopal Rao. The latter made the XI in the first two.

Laxman, who missed the first two matches because of a back problem, toiled for 22 (43 balls) versus Sri Lanka. Now, he has to worry about his future in ODIs.

While Laxman gets into the worrying-mode, Anil Kumble must be pleased. It’s not official, but he’s going to make the XI for the first time in the tournament.

That Kumble is set for a comeback has already been reported in these columns.

Given the problems with the fifth bowler(s), there are indications that five specialists will be fielded. Yet, this may change overnight...

Sourav Ganguly was a bit under the weather in the morning (and even left nets early), apparently due to the prawns at our high commissioner’s reception on Friday, but was fine by the evening.

“There’s nothing to worry... I’m definitely playing,” the former captain said.

INDIA (from): Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Rahul Dravid, Mohammed Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble, Ashish Nehra, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Jai Prakash Yadav.

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