| Bond: Almost ruled out
Hamilton: Keen to round off a troubled tour on a positive note, India are eyeing a third successive win against New Zealand on the eve of the seventh and final one-dayer here on Tuesday before they go into a much-needed rest ahead of the World Cup.
After the humiliating defeats in the two Tests and first four one-dayers, the victories in the last two matches have come as a whiff of fresh air for the team. Captain Sourav Ganguly said a hattrick would put the side in a better frame of mind for cricket’s quadrennial showpiece.
“We need to win this game. It is important. It would be good to have three wins in a row and wind up the tour,” Sourav said.
“It has not been a good tour for us but it happens when you play day in and day out,” he said referring to the team’s hectic schedule over the last year.
“We would have two weeks off before heading for South Africa and it would be useful. We have been on the road for 10 months and we need to spend some time with our families.”
“I have never believed in moral victories. But it would be good to get three wins. This series has been a lot closer than the results indicate,” the Indian captain said.
“We need to get back to good habits. We did well under pressure in the last two games. It’s time to get back to winning ways.”
India can look forward to good batting conditions at the Westpac Park on Tuesday. The pitch, which was slammed during the second Test with many saying it was unsuitable, wears a vastly improved look and the groundsmen felt it was just the right track for a final game. Two days of baking hot sun has made up for the heavy rains of the last week and turf manager Doug Strachan said even 550 runs were not impossible.
Sourav said he would regain his form soon, if not in Tuesday’s game. “I will be back in form soon,” he said. “I was hitting the ball well in the last game and should have carried on. People like Bangar and Kaif need to give themselves more time in the middle. Once the bat starts hitting the ball, the confidence comes back,” he said.
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming wanted his team to keep itself motivated and was worried that his bowlers were losing focus since the one-day series had already been decided.
“The number of no-balls and wides were a reflection of the attitudes of the bowlers in the last two games. Basically, the last three games are dead rubbers. So we have to create a challenging environment,” Fleming said. “The edge has just gone a bit and there are signs that the guys are in a bit of a holding pattern before the World Cup. That is wrong,” he said. Shane Bond is almost ruled out with an ear infection and his replacement Mike Mason too has a fitness problem. Wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum is also complaining of dizziness.
India: Sourav Ganguly (capt.), Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Sanjay Bangar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar, Ashish Nehra, Jawagal Srinath, Parthiv Patel, Rakesh Patel.
New Zealand: Stephen Fleming (capt.), Matthew Sinclair, Lou Vincent, Chris Harris, Chris Cairns, Scott Styris, Brendon McCullum, Andre Adams, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Paul Hitchcock, Shane Bond, Kyle Mills.
Umpires: Daryl Harper (Aus) and Doug Cowie (NZ). Third umpire: Brent Bowden (NZ).
Our Special Correspondent in Calcutta adds: While the Indians will be tempted to retain the winning XI, the composition will really be determined by the state of the wicket. After all, it rained rather heavily very late in the day and, so, captain Sourav Ganguly will be keeping open an option.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, excellent weather will probably see Dinesh Mongia taking Sanjay Bangar’s place. On the other hand, if the wicket is damp and conditions overcast, Bangar could keep his place.