The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Focus on Sachin’s fitness

Chirstchurch: With Sachin Tendulkar’s fitness still under a cloud, a struggling India were hoping the New Year would bring some luck to them in the third one-day International against New Zealand here Wednesday.

Sachin, who missed the first two matches due to an ankle sprain, is a doubtful starter for Wednesday’s day-night game too. Captain Sourav Ganguly, however, was optimistic Sachin would play. Physio Andrew Leipus is said to be not totally certain of Sachin’s recovery and unless he gives the go-ahead, Sachin might well have to sit out.

Sachin’s fitness is crucial to India’s hopes being0-2 down in the seven-match series.

The batsmen have been woefully out of form, managing just 327 runs in the two one-dayers combined. The fielding also dipped sharply in the last match.

However, Sourav Tuesday asked fans to be patient, saying this was the same team which had been winning for most of the year.

He derived hope from Virender Sehwag who hit a brilliant century in the previous game after struggling earlier, and said the dashing opener was the perfect example for the other batsmen to follow.

“Sehwag is back in form and it is up to the rest of us to pull our socks and get some runs on the board,” said Sourav who himself has managed just 43 from six innings.

But Sourav was dismissive of former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe’s suggestion that the Indians were not doing well because their minds were pre-occupied with the contracts row.

“We had the contracts problem in England and in the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka but we hardly lost anything on those tours,” Sourav said.

Indian coach John Wright pointed out even the absence of Sachin could not be the reason for India’s woeful performance in this series.

“We are a stronger side with him but in my time I have played around 20 games without Sachin and done well. We don’t need dependence on any one player,” Wright said.

Wright said India would have to ensure that they tightened up their fielding in the remaining matches. The coach sounded optimistic of India’s chances in the upcoming World Cup.

“No matter what happens here, I have a lot of confidence in the side. The boys will perform in South Africa. I am very optimistic of that,” Wright said.

Poor fielding performance may cost Ashish Nehra his place in the side Wednesday. Nehra bowled decently in Napier but his fielding left much to be desired. According to indications, allrounder Ajit Agarkar, who is yet to get a look-in on this tour, will replace Nehra.

New Zealand, on the other hand, would miss their express bowler Shane Bond for the second consecutive game. Bond, who did not play in Napier is suffering from a side strain and his place is likely to be taken by Mike Mason of Central Districts.

“Bondie’s (Shane Bond) absence is a blow but we are all looking at the World Cup and caution is the key,” New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming said.

Fleming was happy that Bond’s absence was not felt in Napier and urged his bowlers to continue their dominance in the series.

Fleming said his team was fast developing a winning habit.

The conditions at the Jade Stadium here are brilliant for cricket with a batsman-friendly pitch and bright sunshine promising plenty of runs.


INDIA (from): Sourav Ganguly, Sanjay Bangar, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Ajit Agarkar.

NEW ZEALAND (from): Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle, Matthew Sinclair, Craig McMillan, Lou Vincent, Jacob Oram, Brendon Mccullum, Paul Hitchcock, Mike Mason, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills.

Umpires: Asoka de Silva (Sri Lanka) and Brent Bowden (New Zealand).

Third Umpire: Doug Cowie.

Hours of play: 6.40 am to 10.10 am; 10.50 am till close of play.

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