The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Double off-spin test for SA
- Stage set for dress rehearsal

Dhaka: Not just the stars, the people too seem disenchanted with the cricket bonanza here. How does one explain the near empty stands and the general lack of interest in the TVS Cup'

The home team’s performance has been anything but encouraging. Add to it, the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and you have the reasons behind the disillusionment.

“Sachin’s non appearance has robbed the tournament of spectator interest. Moreover, South Africa just does not have the mass appeal in these parts. The presence of Pakistan would have done wonders to the BCB coffers,” remarked an official.

It was destined to be an India-South Africa final from the moment the tournament was planned. Post World Cup, it also came as an opportunity to work on the sides’ shortcomings or explore new tactics and invade hitherto unventured avenues.

For India, it has been a test for the youngsters. Sourav Ganguly is engrossed in his search for some of the important slots that will fall vacant in the run-up to the next quadrennial showpiece.

South Africa are going through a transition phase and it will take some time before they fall into the groove. Nonetheless, the convincing victories over the hosts will do enormous good to their morale before Friday’s dress rehearsal to the title showdown.

In Avishkar Salvi, Gautam Gambhir and Amit Mishra, Sourav has some potent weapons. Very few fast bowlers have enjoyed the hype and adulation Salvi managed after the A tour to the West Indies. To be fair to him, he hasn’t disappointed in his brief showing here. The Mumbaiker, though, was not tested against South Africa in the first meeting and it will be nice to see how he lives up to the challenge.

Gambhir, the hero of Wednesday’s win over Bangladesh, and Mishra have also been impressive. But tougher tests will obviously lie in the days ahead.

“They haven’t done badly considering it’s a one-day match. It’s now upto the selectors and the team management to judge their performance,” assistant coach Ashok Malhotra told The Telegraph.

“They are doing their job and only time will help sharpen their performance,” Malhotra added.

Another gain from the tournament has been Ajit Agarkar’s form. The allrounder has often been flayed for his profligate ways and getting to play none of the World Cup matches has not been of any help.

He, though, has remained focussed and has shown accuracy in the tough conditions here picking up wickets regularly. With Jawagal Srinath’s future undecided, he has made a strong bid at the third seamer’s slot.

The Indians are unlikely to risk Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh before the final. While Zaheer is nursing a hamstring injury, Yuvraj is yet to recover from a bout of fever. The fever has subsided but the weakness remains. If Yuvraj does make it at the last minute, Sanjay Bangar will get the boot.

Sourav and Harbhajan Singh are certain to make a comeback. Out of the team will be Abhijit Kale and Amit Mishra. This means the Indians will be going in with two off spinners — Harbhajan and Sarandeep.

For South Africa, tackling the Indian spinners will be another major test and how they live up to the challenge in the middle overs could well decide the course of the game.

Graeme Smith, though, seemed confident. “We will be playing three games in four days. The secret will be in getting the basics right. If that happens, we’ll be able to push India.”

South Africa’s batting hasn’t lacked purpose against the run-of-the-mill Bangladesh attack but India will be a different proposition. The bowling, at times, has been short of discipline.

For some, the final outcome might just decide their careers.


India: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sourav Ganguly, Mohammed Kaif, Sanjay Bangar/Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Ajit Agarkar, Parthiv Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Avishkar Salvi, Sarandeep Singh.

South Africa (from): Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Rudolph, Boeta Dippenaar, Mark Boucher, Neil McKenzie, Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall, Makhaya Ntini, Paul Adams, Robin Peterson, Charles Willoughby, Allan Dawson.

Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZ), Md Akhtaruddin (Bangladesh).

Third umpire: Shawkatur Rahman (Bangladesh).

Match Referee: Clive Lloyd (West Indies).

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