The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav: No problems playing in Zimbabwe
Indian captain looking forward to Pak encounter

Johannesburg: The Indian cricket team has no reservations about playing a World Cup match in Zimbabwe, captain Saurav Ganguly said as the squad arrived in South Africa for the tournament on Wednesday.

India are due to play a group game against Zimbabwe in Harare on February 19, one of six matches to be staged in the country. “We toured Zimbabwe two years ago and it was okay for us then,” Sourav told a news conference shortly after the Indian squad arrived at Johannesburg International Airport.

“We were looked after very well then, so we have no reservations about going there now.”

Earlier this week, England’s players asked the ICC to conduct an urgent review into their match in Zimbabwe, citing growing concerns over the political climate in the country.

Sourav was confident his team would improve on their poor performance on the recent tour of New Zealand, where they were beaten 5-2 in a one-day series. “New Zealand was a good wake-up call and we are here to bounce back. In professional sport phases come and go. Teams come into form and get out of form.

Sourav added his side should not be ruled out of contention. “In one-day cricket, every team is strong. One-day cricket is a matter of 50 overs a side and as a rule you cannot write off any team,” he said.

“We have come close on two occasions after winning the World Cup in 1983. In 1987 and 1996 we were beaten in the semi-finals. People consider that we are a side capable of winning.”

Admitting that his team was under tremendous pressure to do well, Sourav said, “There are similar pressure on countries such as South Africa and Australia where cricket is a passion.”

Sourav said his team was determined to put up a good show in the World Cup. “The boys are keen to put their heads down and work together to do well in the World Cup. “We need to play as a unit, and everyone needs to perform,” he said.

A number of supporters and officials of the Indian High Commission as also chairman of the World Cup Organising Committee Ali Bacher were present at the airport to receive the Indians.

From Johannesburg, the team drove down to Durban where they will be based till the start of the tournament on February 8. The team will play two warm-up games against Kwa-Zulu Natal on February 4 and 6 in Durban.

“A lot of people say we are in a tough group but it all depends on what happens on a particular day. Anyone can win the tournament.” Sourav said his team was totally focussed and not distracted by issues like the contracts row.

One of the most eagerly awaited games of the tournament will be India’'s clash with Pakistan at Centurion on March 1, the first time the neighbouring countries will meet since June 2000 when they played in the Asia Cup in Dhaka.

“We’re looking forward to meeting them again,” said Sourav. “It will be good for people back in India to watch the two teams meet. The game comes pretty late so the Super Six places will probably already have been decided. It’s unlikely to be a crunch game.”

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