The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India hold the edge: Sourav
- Hooper promises to put best foot forward in absence of mercurial Lara

Calcutta: India captain Sourav Ganguly arrived in the city from Colombo, via Chennai, Tuesday afternoon.

After a commendable performance in the Emerald Island, where his team shared the Champions Trophy title with the hosts following a rain-ruined final, the skipper made it clear that he has already started thinking about the series against the West Indies.

The first Test against the Caribbeans starts in Mumbai on October 9. Speaking to newsmen in Chennai, Sourav said: “We have the clear edge. We have been performing very well as a team,” said a confident Sourav.

The captain re-iterated that speedster Jawagal Srinath would play in the Test series. Srinath returned to international cricket after a three-month break replacing injured Ashish Nehra in the final of the Champions Trophy in Colombo.

The skipper, however, confirmed that Nehra would be fully fit for the series.

On the absence of star West Indian batsman Brian Lara, who has pulled out of the tour citing health reasons, Sourav said, “Obviously his team will miss him, so also the Indian cricket fans.”

Commenting on the Champions Trophy, he said that India would have clinched the Cup, but for the weather. “We were in a good position to win. We can’t help the weather.”

He also felt that the team has made a vast improvement in the fielding department.

Meanwhile, West Indian captain Carl Hooper feels that his inexperienced team will do well in the series in spite of the absence of Lara.

Hooper, on his arrival in Bangalore with the side Tuesday morning, however, admitted that the absence of Lara will be “felt very badly”.

“He is a great player and would have been a great asset.” Hooper said about the left-hander who had to opt out of the series suffering from hepatitis. “Inexperience is our weakness. But we’ll do well,” Hooper added.

“We will put our best foot forward. We have played without Lara in the past. It is important for people like myself to lead by example,” Hooper said.

Asked if India was a better side now and had the potential to win the World Cup next year, Hooper said: “It’s hard to say. In this part of the world, it’s very difficult to beat India as one witnessed in Colombo.”

Viv Richards, who also arrived with the team declined to comment on the team’s prospects. “I have just come as a selector. I will have to sit down with the coach and manager and sort things out. It’s how you finish that counts. We have the ability, we need to get all the guys playing like Hooper did against India.”

Wright praise

Indian coach John Wright feels that his team would have lifted the ICC trophy, if rain had not interrupted the final against Sri Lanka on two consecutive days.

The coach added that the performances of Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid were ‘superb’ in the Champions Trophy.

When asked whether more pacemen would be included in the matches against the West Indies, he said it was entirely the decision up to the selection committee. (AGENCIES)

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