Calcutta, Nov. 17: With the season’s best seats at the Eden, the josh for tomorrow’s India versus Australia tri-series final does border on the unprecedented. Yet, for now, the focus is largely on one man: Sourav Ganguly.
Actually, much of the attention is also on physio Andrew Leipus.
Nine months ago, Leipus worked overtime to repair Ashish Nehra’s left ankle. He responded by taking six England wickets for 23 and gave Team India the momentum to drive towards the World Cup final.
Over the past two days, the physio has been concentrating on the captain who, in any case, has just come off two abscess-forced surgeries.
Sourav suffered groin muscle cramps in Hyderabad and, till late this evening, was “80 per cent fit” for the summit face-off.
Well, a billion hearts will miss beats till that 80 becomes 100…. Predictably, the buzz around the Eden throughout the day was: “Captain ki khelbe (Will the captain play)'”
Thankfully, the second title-round showdown with the world champions in 2003 is a day-night game and, so, the recovery time gets extended. It makes a difference. At the same time, it’s not insignificant that the team leaves for Australia as early as Friday.
“I’ve got a fight on my hands but, eventually, should be able to make it… What’s encouraging is that I’m getting better by the hour,” Sourav told The Telegraph. However, it’s unlikely he can bowl.
For India, the tournament — which began with an abandonment in Chennai last month — has had that roller-coaster feel. A big win in Gwalior, followed by three defeats till victory in that virtual semi-final in Hyderabad, against New Zealand.
Of course, it didn’t help that Sourav missed the first four matches.
“Look, that is past… Now, only 100 overs will determine the winner… Whoever plays better on the day is going to take the honours,” the captain pointed out.
Incidentally, at an interaction with the media, Sourav maintained that the “two best teams in limited overs cricket” had made the final. On form and consistency, it’s difficult looking beyond Australia, but…
After a full-fledged workout, the captain went home for a few hours with the family and a quiet dinner. That done, he headed back to the team hotel and Leipus’ treatment-table.
Ricky Ponting, for his part, went along with Sourav when he said tomorrow will be a “different challenge”. And, yes, the Australian captain acknowledged his team would “gain a bit” if his opposite number had to sit out.
If Sourav is compelled to do so, Hemang Badani will fill in. Even otherwise, the XI is going to be recast as coach John Wright and the captain work out the most effective combination. If a reminder is needed, the bowling is our worry.
The Australians haven’t decided on their XI, but Nathan Bracken should return after being rested in Bangalore. Their problem is different: Who to leave out'
The emotionally-charged are bound to draw a parallel with the World Cup final at the Wanderers. The difference between March 23 and tomorrow, though, is more pronounced than between chalk and cheese.
Not that it will be reflected on the intensity scale.
“The pressure bit isn’t going to diminish… Equally, the intensity will be just as high… We play to win and, when that’s the approach, there can’t be a let-up (in intensity),” Sourav explained.
Not for the first time, perhaps, the game will be decided in the first 15 overs. Actually, there’s a Sachin Tendulkar-Adam Gilchrist battle within the larger war, yet the other openers (Virender Sehwag and Matthew Hayden) are as capable of mayhem.
Whoever explodes, the 100,000-odd won’t mind.