The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sachin ready for comeback
- Sourav set to return as opener in Wellington

Calcutta, Jan. 4: While reports yesterday suggested Sachin Tendulkar will miss the fifth ODI, too, coach John Wright is confident he will take the field at Basin Reserve (Wellington) on Wednesday.

“The physio (Andrew Leipus) and I had a half-hour chat with Sachin, after today’s defeat (Queenstown), and he is confident of making a return in the next few days itself. His response has made me optimistic,” Wright told The Telegraph from the Park Royal Hotel.

The coach didn’t have to, but did add: “Obviously, Sachin’s presence (in the XI) alone should lift the confidence of the other batsmen…”

Sachin, whose last ODI appearance was during the replayed Champions Trophy final, in Colombo (September 30), hurt his right ankle in a freak accident at nets ahead of the first ODI (Auckland) of the on-going series.

“Look, Sachin was set to play the third game (Christchurch), but was kept off the roster as his ankle swelled after a workout… Now, of course, he himself feels he can cope with the demands of a ODI,” Wright pointed out.

Utterly dejected after another abject surrender, the coach confessed he was worried this level of confidence could mar India's preparations for the World Cup beginning on February 8.

“It’s a concern… At the same time, I accept it’s my job to ensure what happens in New Zealand isn’t carried over as unwelcome excess baggage to South Africa… Even now, we can be back on track if the batsmen realise the importance of discipline. This series is over, not the tour.

“Generally, conditions have been tough and the wickets bowler-friendly but, then, you’ve got to stop repeating mistakes. In fact, today, we had a fair wicket and, after getting a start, the batsmen ought to have consolidated,” Wright added.

Though the coach didn’t go beyond saying the present crisis made for his “biggest challenge,” he is understood to have bluntly told a confidant: “Now, it’s difficult remaining patient… Every game has been preceded with the belief we will come out tops. Yet, the sad reality is that we’ve ended up losing each one of them…”

Pride and passion — key elements for the traditionalist that Wright is — have simply disappeared from the Indians’ approach. Moreover, such an unbelievably poor show is bound to reduce the Board’s bargaining power in its stand-off with the International Cricket Council on the Player Terms.

Meanwhile, speaking exclusively (again from the Park Royal), captain Sourav Ganguly indicated he will revert to one of the opening slots.

He must.

“Rahul (Dravid) was promoted as we felt that was our best bet towards batting all 50 overs… The decision was in the interests of the team… It’s another matter that didn’t work… Yes, at this moment, it’s possible I’ll be back as opener in Wellington,” Sourav said, his tone that of a decorated general who has been at the receiving end from a decidedly inferior army.

Significantly, indirectly, he accepted that moving himself up and down the order (no matter what the compulsions) wasn’t exactly sending the right signal.

The captain, who finished 2002 as the seventh most prolific batsman in ODIs, has managed 4 and 2 in the first two games of the year. Indeed, the on-going series has seen him contribute only 20 (14 and 0 being his scores in the first two ODIs).

He is worth much more.

Stephen Fleming, too, must be aware of that – even as we wait for the one innings which will make some difference.

Right now, perhaps, Sourav should absorb himself in Steve Waugh’s latest classic. The past, after all, has seen the Indian captain draw inspiration from the living legend…

n Ind-NZ match report: Pg 14

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