Calcutta: Star leggie Anil Kumble is still “struggling” and, so, the decision about his featuring in the first tri-series final against Australia has been deferred till just before Friday’s toss at the MCG.
“We’re going to wait till the afternoon,” informed Team India captain Sourav Ganguly, when contacted by The Telegraph on Thursday evening.
Kumble hasn’t played after the first four league matches.
[Incidentally, on a different issue, the captain denied a PTI report that the players met on Wednesday evening to discuss the possibility of boycotting the forthcoming tour of Pakistan. “That’s news to me,” he remarked.]
Sourav, by the way, has himself recovered from a sore back and a stiff right calf muscle. Either Rohan Gavaskar (who, one understands, has a sore shoulder) or Hemang Badani will now have to sit out.
If Kumble stays on the unfit list, then Murali Kartik is expected to make a comeback after being dropped in the last game (versus Zimbabwe). In that case, Ashish Nehra is going to be omitted.
Certain to make a return, after being rested, is Ajit Agarkar. He will ‘take’ Amit Bhandari’s place — in fact, the latter isn’t even in the XIV announced after the team meeting.
PTI adds: Sourav exhorted each of his teammates to focus on the game at hand and think of making a difference to the side with his performance.
“It is easy to get carried away by the pressure and atmosphere (of the finals). It is for each individual to focus on his game and talk to himself what he could do to make a difference,” Sourav said in Melbourne.
The Indians do not have happy memories going into the final — they lost both their title-round matches to Australia last year — in the World Cup and the tri-series at home. But Sourav was not dwelling on the past.
“(The) past does not matter. We didn’t have a great record in Australia, but during the course of this summer, it took a special effort from us to change that. We have all improved over the last couple of months. If we can finish it off well, it would be a nice way to go back home,” he said.
Sourav admitted he has high hopes from his team. “You never know when somebody stands up and delivers. I have always believed you are only one evening away from greatness in the game of cricket.”
The Indian captain was dismissive of recent suggestions by Jason Gillespie that the law of averages could catch up with the Indians.“The point is when does the law of averages catch up. It has been four Tests and nine one-dayers for us so far on the tour. If it had to catch up, it would have caught up by now. By this very token, it could be the same for Australia. They have put on a lot of runs on the board. It could well be the same for them as well.
“But it doesn’t work like that. It is how hungry and intense a team is on the field which would make the difference.”
Gillespie had also mentioned that the Indians were lucky to have got away with some unorthodox strokeplay but Sourav said they will stick to their styles.
“I don’t think we are going to make any changes in our batting styles. It has served us well with whatever approach we have chosen to adopt in the middle. There is no need for us to meddle. Why fix a thing which is not broken!”
In fact, the skipper was banking on his batsmen to make up for bowling glitches.
“We have played so well in the series and it is because we put a lot of runs on the board. That gave the chance to the bowlers to bowl their heart out and get away with a little bit of mistake here and there. Batting still remains the key.”
Meanwhile, Australian captain Ricky Ponting asserted that the recent record of India in the finals against them would work against the visitors. “I guarantee the Indians will be thinking about it,” he said.
He believes Australia can work this record in their favour. “You look back at our record against India over the last few years and it is very, very good.”
Ponting was also seeking to exploit the scars left by Brett Lee on the Indian batsmen in Perth.
“Brett, hopefully, would have created some scars in Perth and we can carry on and bring that to tell in the final of the series,” he said after a practice session.
Lee wrecked India with some fiery bowling on a bouncy WACA track on Sunday.
“We have been yearning to play India in Perth and certainly our fast bowlers right throughout the summer have played them on some very good batting wickets,” said Ponting, hoping his bowlers would come good even on a docile pitch at the MCG. “If we bowl well, execute our plans well and hold on to our catches, we are going to be very competitive in the finals.”
However, Ponting did not want to take anything away from the Indians who have enjoyed a sensational summer.
“It has been a great summer of excellent cricket and both sides have made lots of runs. There is no reason why the finals won’t be the same and provide the big crowd some entertaining cricket.”
India (from): Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Rohan Gavaskar, Hemang Badani, V.V.S. Laxman, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Ashish Nehra, Anil Kumble, Murali Kartik.
Australia (from): Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Michael Kasprowicz, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Brad Hogg, Brad Williams, Ian Harvey.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (WI), Simon Taufel (Aus).
Third Umpire: Darryl Harper.