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Since 1st March, 1999
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Injured Nehra doubtful starter
- THIRD TEST - Steve feels there will be more pressure on India, Sourav disagrees

Melbourne: Even as spearhead Zaheer Khan has recovered from a strained hamstring, Ashish Nehra’s right ankle has swollen. And, so, he is doubtful for the third Test, at the MCG, from Friday.

What is more worrying is that Nehra has undergone two surgeries on the same ankle. However, as a member of the Team India thinktank told The Telegraph on Wednesday, the swelling isn’t in the region operated upon as recently as April. Surgery No. 1 was earlier.

“It doesn’t look too good... Having said that, the physio (Andrew Leipus) is working hard on Nehra. We will have to wait till the morning, at least,” the gentleman added. Apparently, the left-arm quick felt sore after the Hobart three-dayer (versus Australia A), where the wicket was hard. Tuesday’s nets made it worse.

If Nehra isn’t fit, Zaheer is going to return in his place and young Irfan Pathan will keep his berth. The (drop-in) wicket here is going to have pace and bounce, certainly for the first three days, and no quick would like to miss an opportunity at having a go at the Matthew Haydens and Ricky Pontings.

Being 0-1 down, one expects Australia to be under greater pressure, but captain Steve Waugh has a different theory: “It’s a challenge for us, but the pressure is more on India as they aren’t accustomed to being ahead in a series overseas...”

That, of course, was promptly shot down by Sourav Ganguly. “I believe the pressure is on both teams and, really, anything can happen... But, it’s incorrect to talk of us not being in a familiar role... Actually, both in 2001 and 2002, we were ahead (in Zimbabwe and the West Indies, respectively)...” he reacted.

The Indian captain continued: “Whether being in a familiar situation or not, the batting will determine how this Test unfolds... Moreover, one can’t just be looking at what could happen after five days... One will have to be at the top of one’s game every single day...”

Asked whether he was hopeful of a big innings from Sachin Tendulkar, who has got lost among a string of low scores, Sourav answered: “Absolutely... I can’t think of a series where Sachin didn’t get runs at some stage. It will be great if he gets them now.”

Strongly dismissing a suggestion that Team India may play for a draw, Sourav emphasised “such an approach won’t be right.” He couldn’t have been more candid.

While India are making one change, Australia too may not look beyond fielding Brett Lee for the injured Jason Gillespie. If there’s a second, in the XI which lost at the Adelaide Oval by four wickets, then Nathan Bracken will come in for Brad Williams.

There’s been a debate of sorts over Australia packing in five specialist bowlers but, till late on Wednesday, there was nothing to confirm that.

For the statistically inclined, the Indians have won two Tests at the MCG: Under Bishan Bedi in 1977-78 and Sunil Gavaskar (1980-81). As for the Australians, the victory column reads five.

Tips from Akram

Meanwhile, with bowling coach Bruce Reid on ‘vacation’ till Thursday evening, some of the quicks availed of tips from former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram prior to the day’s workout. Akram, who is around as a TV commentator, had been at the centre of much speculation before the job went to the Australian.

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