| Rahul Dravid during practice in Dambulla on Thursday. (AFP)
Dambulla: Indian captain Sourav Ganguly has urged his players to strive for consistency at the start of a new season which gets underway with a match against UAE in the Asia Cup on Friday.
“Consistency is the key. That’s one area where we really have to concentrate to maintain the winning streak. That’s how we are going to remain a good side,” Sourav said on Thursday.
“We are at full strength. It raises expectations. We won tournaments when not everyone was fit. Now we are fit and would just have to keep winning.”
The captain said one plus of his of team is that it has bowlers who can get past an opposition line-up.
“It’s good to have bowling options. That’s the reason why we have started winning overseas. Bowlers win games. Then there are batters who put up runs on the board. You have a choice to pick your bowling as well as your batting unit.”
A fit squad also means competitions for the different slots and Sourav says it’s healthy.
“It breeds healthy competition because the players know they have to perform. That’s the only way they could remain a part of the team.”
Sourav said the failure to win the Asia Cup in the last two attempts will spur his players to do well. “There are a lot of Indian players who haven’t won the Asia Cup and they want to do it this time.”
The skipper was delighted that his boys batted so fluently in the practice game on Wednesday. “We had three match situations in Chennai (at the camp) and one here. So for most of the guys it is four games already. Playing has helped because it is different from being at the nets.
“We don’t stop the natural instincts of the players. That’s why we have aggressors in Sachin (Tendulkar) and (Virender) Sehwag as openers, No.s 3, 4 and 5 rotate around and then at 6 and 7 we have guys who can play shots. Our batting is built around this philosophy and that’s what we are going to stick to.”
Sourav felt the task in Sri Lanka won’t be easy. “It’s a no-win situation for us against UAE because we don’t know enough about them.
“Then Pakistan will be a good team. Sri Lanka at home is a very difficult side. We need to play really well. We are coming after a big break so we need to come into rhythm quickly.”
Out to make a mark
UAE coach Abid Ali said that his top six batsmen are capable of making a mark against the mighty Indians. “We have five or six very good batsmen. If they stay for a while, we would be able to do something.”
The former India Test allrounder is hoping that his batsmen would last 50 overs and the bowlers would stay focused against the aggressive Indian batting line-up.
“It is a big test but if we stick to basics, if our bowlers bowl the correct line and length, we will give a good account of ourselves.”
Ali said his players have had enough exposure. “In January, the Australians brought a team. Then there was the six-player tournament. We played a longer game with Nepal. We won the ACC Trophy in Malaysia. Besides, we have practised hard in the last 15 days.”
Ali is happy to see Sourav and his team raising their performance to a level where they are spoken in the same breath as world champions Australia.
“Tendulkar is the top Indian batsman I have seen. Men like Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Virender Sehwag are all class cricketers.
“If they work on fitness, it plays 50 per cent part in your cricket, if they can enhance it, then they could do wonders,” Ali noted.
Having played cricket in an era which produced Sunil Gavaskar and the famous spin quartet, Ali was inevitably drawn into comparing them with Tendulkar and Anil Kumble. “Sunny was a little different from Tendulkar. These boys are attackers. They keep hitting the ball. Sunny was different in that he used to graft. He used to look at the situation and play accordingly.
“As for Kumble, he is one of the greats in the art of leg-spin bowling. But it does not serve any purpose to compare cricketers of different eras.”
Ali also rated captain Sourav highly. “Initially I was not convinced. But he has become a very good captain and has been handling the boys very well. In the earlier stages he could have made mistakes but now he is calm and cool.” (PTI)