| Sachin Tendulkar tastes a peach at BoE Park in Paarl Tuesday. (AFP)
Paarl: Ajay Jadeja on the eve of the squad’s departure for the World Cup; Shane Warne on the eve of the first match... While the quashing of the former’s ban, by an arbitrator, (rightly) upset most in the Indian XV, Tuesday’s developments over Warne have surely ‘pleased’ the full complement.
After all, though the immediate focus is Wednesday’s game versus Holland (the ICC Trophy winners), the Indians have to look ahead as well — specifically to Saturday’s match against holders Australia, in Centurion. It’s a relief that Warne won’t be there.
Of course, the Sourav Ganguly-led Indians aren’t looking for off-the-field bonuses only, but anything to boost their campaign is bound to be welcomed. For now, however, the attention is on Holland and the BoE Park.
Few know anything much about Roland Lefebvre’s side. Equally, few are looking at Holland to cause an upset. Paarl may have a strong Dutch presence, but Lefebvre and Co. can feel at home only in the many vineyards or the luxurious team hotel: Village at Spear.
Not only are the Indians heavy on ammunition and experience, the heat has already demoralised Holland. “It’s tough...We haven’t experienced anything like this,” confessed Lefebvre, who is quitting after the tournament to concentrate on his board’s development programme.
The captain continued: “We have nothing to lose, but there will be nerves as the gap between us and the established teams is wide...” Incidentally, India and Holland haven’t yet featured in an ODI.
While Holland’s XV is sans any star, some of the biggest names in coaching — Bobby Simpson and Bob Woolmer — have been working with the Bas Zuiderents and Klaas van Noortwijks. Assigned by the International Cricket Council, Woolmer was with the squad till last week. Simpson was the consultant during last September’s Champions Trophy in Colombo.
The lessons learnt from such experts ought to be reflected in some way, at least, in Holland’s performance.
To speak of India, given the bruising suffered in New Zealand, nobody will mind this potentially ‘soft’ start. In fact, barring the two hundreds by Virender Sehwag and a 54 by Yuvraj Singh, nobody crossed fifty even once in seven games. So, the more runs collected (at Holland’s expense), the better for Team India’s confidence.
“The opening matches have seen handsome totals and I’m sure our batsmen will also help themselves to big scores... In any case, the World Cup provides the best opportunity for showcasing one’s talent... It’s a huge opportunity,” Sourav pointed out.
[The minimum totalled against Holland is 279 for four, by England in the 1996 edition.]
Coach John Wright, under pressure to have his contract extended, concurred and added: “Actually, the defeat in the second warm-up game (to a KwaZulu-Natal XI) is the best thing that could have happened... It came as a wake-up call and made everybody realise every match has to be played with the same intensity.”
While declaring that the batting order was “settled”, Sourav did indicate there would be “flexibility”. Just as well, for one-day cricket calls for that in a big way.
Indeed, late at night, The Telegraph learnt that the old opening firm of Sourav and Sachin Tendulkar would be revived. Accordingly, Sehwag will bat at No.3. One understands Sachin will open in Centurion as well.
The top three, therefore, will be followed by Rahul Dravid (who dismissed talk that the heat would make it difficult), Yuvraj, Mohammed Kaif, Dinesh Mongia, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan.
The Indians spent much time debating whether to opt for three pacemen and one specialist spinner (Harbhajan) or play Anil Kumble as well, at Agarkar’s expense. Eventually, the 3-1 move got accepted and, so, Kumble will sit out.
As for Holland, coach Emmerson Trotman revealed that Rudd Nijhman and Nick Statham are the only ones out of contention. “We will, really, be picking from XIII,” he maintained.
India’s last game at Paarl, versus Kenya in the 2001-2002 tri-series, saw a huge win. A repeat isn’t ruled out. Nor for that matter, huge support for Sourav and the rest. The captain winning the toss, by the way, should bat.
India (likely): Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Dinesh Mongia, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan.
Holland (from): Roland Lefebvre, Luuk van Troost, Daan van Bunge, Jacob Jan Esmeijer, Jan Feiko Kloppenburg, Tim de Leede, Henk Mol, Reinout Scholte, Adeel Raja, Klaas van Noortwijk, Edgar Schiferli, Bas Zuiderent and Jeroen Smits.
Umpires: Peter Willey (Eng) and Daryl Harper (Aus).
Match Referee: Denis Lindsay (SA).
Match starts: 1.30 pm (IST).
Vinod Kambli, who has just finished a season as an overseas pro with Boland, feels the Indians ought to play both spinners. “Knowing this wicket, I’ve suggested a 2-2 attack,” he informed, speaking exclusively. Going by indications, though, Kambli’s suggestion hasn’t quite been met favourably.
The Boland Cricket Board, incidentally, is headquartered at the BoE Park.