The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Elements India’s prime concern
Sourav may move up to No. 3 - Dravid set to 'keep against Namibia as well

Pietermaritzburg: It was pouring when the Sourav Ganguly-led Indians landed in Johannesburg, from Harare, Thursday morning. And, the rain was blinding when they arrived here (by road from Durban, 90 km away) late in the afternoon. It had them worried.

The Indians’ worry isn’t without good reasons. After all, they don’t want the elements to call the shots in Sunday’s Pool A match against World Cup first-timers Namibia. Anything short of full points (to add to the eight in the bag) will be disastrous.

The locals weren’t able to provide an update for the weekend, but a “cyclonic influence” is currently holding centrestage. One hopes it will alter course over the next couple of days.

While it’s too early to conclusively talk about whether there will be a change in the Indian XI, it’s almost certain that young Parthiv Patel won’t get his first World Cup cap three days from now. Initially, there was the chance that Rahul Dravid would only play as batsman (versus Namibia), but that idea has been shelved — for now, at least.

Without going into specifics, coach John Wright indicated as much when he told The Telegraph: “We need to win big and, so, need to play our best side...” Captain Sourav Ganguly felt much the same way and added: “We’ve just started our work (by beating Zimbabwe in Harare).”

Sourav, by the way, is likely to bat at No. 3. In that case, Dinesh Mongia, who looked out of sorts Wednesday, will have to go down.

Owing to the huge amount of travel (Harare-Jo’Burg-Durban-Pietermaritzburg), the Indians had a day off — not that the weather would have allowed a workout. This break was needed as so much travelling can take a lot out of the players, specially after a one-dayer.

In fact, the international-to-domestic transfer at Johannesburg itself was so tedious: The departure area is on level III of the admittedly swanky new terminal and the players had to walk/take the escalators for what seemed an eternity. “It’s certainly been my workout for the day,” quipped one of the more experienced players.

Actually, defeating Zimbabwe appeared to have been less demanding.

The Gandhi train

While it’s not certain whether the Indians will be able to have nets Friday morning, they have a series of engagements in the afternoon — the most high-profile being undertaking a train journey from the nearby Pentrich Station to here.

The journey, in a replica of the train used by Mahatma Gandhi back in the late 19th century, will end with the unveiling of a plaque to mark the spot where the Mahatma was forced off the train (at Pietermaritzburg Station).

The unveiling could be done either by Sourav or manager Jyoti Bajpai.

The Indians will then head for the Church Street Mall, which has a Gandhi statue. That is unlikely to be more than a fine photo-op. Thereafter, they will leave for a coaching clinic at Protea Park in Northdale, which isn’t far from here.

To say the least, it’s a tight itinerary.

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