| Sourav Ganguly at a press briefing in Colombo Friday. (Reuters)
Colombo: Just four days after ending a strenuous tour of England, India start their campaign in the ICC Champions Trophy here Saturday with a match against Zimbabwe, hoping to rework the magic that saw them win the NatWest Trophy triangular series two months ago.
The triumph at Lord’s on July 13 in the NatWest Trophy final was one of India’s biggest victories in recent times in one-day Internationals and capped the team’s excellent run in the league matches of the series that involved England and Sri Lanka.
A similar performance would be needed here if India entertain hopes of winning the Champions Trophy.
The joining of Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Mongia has brought a fresh wave of enthusiasm to the team that looks a bit tired after a gruelling 83-day tour of England.
Zimbabwe can no longer be considered minnows and that virtually makes pool II, which also includes England, a ‘group of death’.
Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly acknowledged this fact and said his team must win every match. “We are in a tough group. We cannot afford to take Zimbabwe lightly,” Sourav said Friday. “They’re a very good side, they are no push-overs, and we have to do pretty well,” Sourav told a press conference that was delayed by two hours to give the players time to shake off their tiredness.
The Indian skipper was not unduly worried about being in the only group where both matches would be tough for all sides. “We play as it comes. If you are looking to win the tournament, you have to beat the best teams.”
Considering the form they showed in England, both in the one-dayers and the Test matches, India would be disappointed if they do not beat Zimbabwe.
The only thing that may be worrying them would be fatigue. There has not been enough rest for the players who featured in the Test series against England. With action returning to the sub-continent, the Indians are almost sure to go in with both their spinners — Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. Ajit Agarkar will most likely grab the allrounder’s slot, leaving Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra to compete for the new ball attack.
Zimbabwe are also quite optimistic of their chances as they have beaten both India and England in the recent past. Though Andy Flower admitted Zimbabwe carried the tag of underdogs in this tournament, he said the conditions here suited his team better than sides like England. Flower said left-arm spinner Raymond Price could prove to be Zimbabwe’s trump card. Price had bowled very well during the team’s tour of India last year, dimissing Sachin Tendulkar as many as three times. Heath Streak has taken over the team’s captaincy once again and he, alongwith the Flower brothers, Andy and Grant, as usual form the backbone of the Zimbabwe side.
India (from): Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, V V S Laxman, J P Yadav, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh.
Zimbabwe (from): Heath Streak, Alistair Campbell, Stuart Carlisle, Dion Ebrahim, Sean Ervine, Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Travis Friend, Douglas Hondo, Douglas Marillier, Mpumelelo Mbangwa, Raymond Price, Tatenda Taibu, Guy Whittall.