The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Weather may force India to go in with 2 spinners

Paarl: The Indians are set to launch their World Cup 2003 campaign, against Holland on Wednesday, with a 3-1 attack. Unless there’s a rethink, Harbhajan Singh will be the sole specialist spinner in the XI, supporting the three-pronged pace attack featuring Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar.

If a rethink does come about, it will be thanks to the weather: It’s been terribly hot and if the sun continues to be unforgiving, the BoE Park wicket could behave differently than currently envisaged.

As of now, The Telegraph’s sources feel Anil Kumble, Ashish Nehra, Sanjay Bangar and kid Parthiv Patel will have to busy themselves in the dressing room instead of being active on the field at the beautifully-located Park. A rethink will see Kumble taking Agarkar’s slot.

The batting-order (as of late Monday) will be: captain Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Dinesh Mongia, Agarkar/Kumble, Harbhajan, Srinath and Zaheer.

Though Sourav declined to talk about the XI, he did speak about the upcoming game. “Every match is going to be crucial and no team is to be taken lightly... In fact, we’ll have to be careful and not make errors which could prove costly.”

Incidentally, Sourav didn’t regard the West Indies’ superb win over South Africa, in Cape Town on Sunday night, as an upset. “The South Africans were lucky to have got past the West Indies in Colombo (ICC Champions Trophy, last September)... In any case, the West Indies are a much-improved side... For me, it wasn’t an upset.”

The pressure, obviously, will all be on India. Sourav accepted that, as did the Holland captain, Roland Lefebvre. Talking exclusively, Lefebvre said: “Look, we have nothing to lose and, so, will be enjoying ourselves... Soaking in the World Cup atmosphere...”

Usually, teams playing in Paarl — which is in the midst of the most exclusive of vineyards — stay in Cape Town (a 40-minute drive away). This time, however, both India and Holland have been booked at the idyllic Village at Spier, which itself is 40 minutes from the BoE Park. Surely, it would have been better to remain in Cape Town...

Rubbish, insists Sachin

Meanwhile, master bat Sachin has rubbished a report which spoke about his having sent an SOS to Mumbai, for lighter bats. “That’s rubbish... I’m going to play with the normal bats... I can’t understand why people don’t cross-check...”

Clearly, the last thing Sachin wants is a ‘controversy’ over the weight of his bat. With the World Cup just hours away, for India, he needs to stay focussed on the job he knows best.

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