| Yuvraj Singh, set to return to the XI for the final, stretches by the hotel poolside in Dhaka Saturday
Dhaka, April 19: As dusk set in on the Bangabandhu National Stadium and the malis prepared to wind up their day’s work, the hundreds who throng the commercial hub surrounding the arena everyday didn’t even pass a cursory glance as Sourav Ganguly walked past.
It took a while for the couple of securitymen at the gate to recognize the bespectacled Indian skipper in blue denims and a white T-shirt. It was past 5.30 but the lights hadn’t still come on.
Sourav strolled into the middle for a last-minute assessment of the pitch before the team meeting. Nothing could have been more appropriate to highlight his keenness to win the TVS Cup. South Africa is history and it’s time to move forward. The stepping stone to the 2007 conquest could begin Sunday itself.
The defeat to South Africa Friday has been enough to make the Indians more determined. More than the grey areas, it was the inexperience that came to the fore.
“We are an inexperienced side and we batted badly. But hopefully we’ll have Zaheer (Khan) and Yuvraj (Singh) back and that should hold us in good stead,” Sourav told The Telegraph.
John Wright was more forthright. “We allowed the opposition to win it. It has given the new-look South African side confidence. We’ve learnt our lessons and tomorrow will be another game,” he said after monitoring Zaheer’s fitness test along with Adrian le Roux in the afternoon.
Though Zaheer has overcome the hamstring injury, the weakness arising out of a bout of fever still persists. The thinktank is confident he will be able to make it.
The Indian coach has been most impressed with Avishkar Salvi during the tournament. “He’s an outstanding prospect and looks to have a bright future,” Wright said. The skipper, too, shares similar sentiments.
That means Salvi will partner Zaheer with the new ball. Ajit Agarkar, despite a decent tournament, will then have to sit out for his “inconsistent spell” last night.
Amit Mishra will replace Sarandeep Singh to bring more variation to the attack. The dryness of the wicket with a few cracks showing up might also allow Virender Sehwag to have a longer stint with the ball.
The batting, too, is set for a shake-up. Yuvraj will replace Gautam Gambhir with Parthiv Patel opening the innings with Sehwag. Also, Abhijit Kale will come in place of Sanjay Bangar.
Parthiv has been asked to keep rotating the strike as the others go for the big hits.
“We didn’t get enough big scores yesterday. There were too many 30s. We lost our seventh wicket with five overs to go. One of the reasons for our success in the World Cup was that we had wickets in hand during the last 10 overs,” saidWright.
The South Africans have tried to put the Indians under psychological pressure by terming them the “favourites”. The Proteas, however, are taking a very cautious approach.
“It’ll be a big day for me. If we get the basics right, we believe we can push India again. The Indians know we mean business and it’s going to be a big clash,” said Smith.
For the new South African captain, it’s been a mixed experience. “It’s been exciting and also frustrating at times. I knew the job would be tough and I’m slowly settling in.”
Smith regards Harbhajan will play a key role in the final. “If we can tackle him well, we’ll have a chance. But chasing anything above 250 will be difficult,” felt Smith, who plans to go in with an unchanged side.
Like the Indians, they too had a day off. The stringent security owing to Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s arrival at Pan Pacific Sonargaon, however, left both sides baffled.
The Indians had a more torrid time with the players’ rooms being thoroughly searched in the morning. The Indians are staying in the seventh floor while the President is stationed at the eighth.
It, however, remains to be seen which of the two teams will have the more perplexed look about them Sunday.
INDIA: Virender Sehwag, Parthiv Patel, Sourav Ganguly, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Abhijit Kale, Harbhajan Singh, Avishkar Salvi, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra.
SOUTH AFRICA (likely): Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Rudolph, Boeta Dippenaar, Neil McKenzie, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall, Makhaya Ntini, Paul Adams, Alan Dawson.
Umpires: Alim Dar (Pak), Mahbub Rahman (Ban).
Third Umpire: Shawkat-ur Rahman (Ban).
Match Referee: Clive Lloyd (WI).