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Since 1st March, 1999
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Opener, says Madanlal; anywhere, says Kapil

New Delhi: The argument over whether Sachin Tendulkar should open, gained currency with Kapil Dev, India’s only World Cup winning captain, and Mandalal, another member of that squad, airing their views.

Kapil said here that a batsman of Sachin’s class can play at any position in the batting order, while Madanlal was quoted as saying from London that Sachin should open the, as that would boost his confidence.

“A batsman of Sachin’s class can bat at any position, be it at No. 1 or No. 11. Since he is the best he should not bother about his position,” Kapil said here.

Madanlal said: “The more time Sachin would get to spend on the wicket, better would be his score. If he comes in when just four-five overs are left, what can he do'”

“Even in New Zealand when Sourav was not getting runs, he should have got Sachin to open the innings. Had Sachin opened and scored well in New Zealand, that would have been better for his confidence,” Madanlal said in a BBC Hindi weekly phone-in-programme.

The former allrounder said India should not be rigid regarding the batting order. “When you have the best batsman in your team you should do all that is possible to restore his confidence. What is the use of this rigidity that he should bat at number four only. According to situation, India should shuffle the batting order and there should be no hard and fast rule.”

Madanlal was in favour of a right-left opening combination. There should be flexibility in the batting order. The team has to play one-day cricket according to situation. What is the use then, of having the greatest batsman of the world in your team'” Madanlal asked.

Kapil also said skipper Sourav Ganguly is passing through a lean patch but hastened to add that rough patches were part of every cricketer’s career.

“His performance can be doubted in the last series (against New Zealand). But he is a class player with 19 hundreds. In 1983, the whole team together did not have 19 tons,” said Kapil, who had also worked as team coach.

Asked to pick a player who would star for India, the Wisden Indian Cricketer of the Century, said: “All 15 players are stars to me.” It was the same in 1983 when we played and won as a team, he said. “If we can win in ’83 when we were given only a 66-1 chance, this team which is given a 3-1 or 5-1 rating, has more chances. They just have to play with passion. We may pray, wish but in the end it all depends on how the 15 players wearing the Indian shirts pull up... For themselves and for every body,” said Kapil.

Asked whether India would miss stylish batsman V. V. S. Laxman and left-arm spinner Murali Kartik, Kapil sarcastically said: “The team would miss even me and Sunil Gavaskar. The selectors have picked the best 15. I will not doubt them.”

On the sky-high expectations of the fans, he said it was partly due to India’s superb performance last season. “We were joint winners along with Sri Lanka at the ICC Champions Trophy and we scored a superb win in England (NatWest Trophy in July). True we expect a lot but only because they have proved themselves. It has given us the hope,” he said. On Pakistan fast bowler Sarfaraz Nawaz’ comment that there would be match fixing at cricket’s quadrennial show piece, Kapil said “say thank you to him.”

On the wicketkeeping issue, Madanlal said he would not like to see Rahul Dravid again with the gloves on. “The decision on Dravid likely to keep the wickets was taken by the team captain and the coach keeping in mind the team balance.

“But I feel that a lot in a one-day depends on the ’keeper, and a specialist keeper should be in the team, as even a single error can prove costly. This talk on Rahul keeping the wickets has been going on ever since I was a selector, and the risk has been taken to accommodate an extra bowler or a batsman,” he said.

Admitting India were placed in a tough group, Madanlal said predicting which teams would advance was difficult. “All teams are good and capable of beating each other... There could be major upsets in this group and predicting which teams would go forward would be risky.”

However, on the basis of performance during the last one year, Madanlal said, Australia, Pakistan, South Africa and India should reach the semi-finals. “But other teams can spoil the party of these four,” he cautioned.

Madanlal was all praise for Australia, saying they were one team that stood apart in all the departments — batting, bowling and fielding. “If they lose in the World Cup, all that can be said is it was due to one bad day,” he said.

Indians visit school

Meanwhile in Durban, the Indian cricketers took time off their busy schedule on Monday to offer some valuable tips to hundreds of school children who were overjoyed by the presence of the stars amongst them.

The schoolboys, from various African and Indian backgrounds, were given tips in the coaching session by captain Sourav Ganguly, Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and other members of the team. The players said after the session that they were pleased to offer some assistance to the young boys.

“If we have been of any help to the youngsters then we have achieved something,” Sourav said. Another boy said he had been dreaming about the coaching session all night. “Sachin Tendulkar is my hero and I want India to win the World Cup,” he said.

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