The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indians set to keep 3-1 attack
- Laxman hit again at nets, has swelling on left knee l Kumble tipped to be sole specialist spinner vs Pakistan
Even if he’s half-dead, Laxman will play... It’s such a crucial game,
a virtual semi-final...

Colombo: With Sunday’s showdown against Pakistan drawing near, indications are that the Team India thinktank will continue with a 3-1 bowling combination. Also, with Ashish Nehra having bowled well versus Bangladesh, it’s going to be tough for Zaheer Khan to make a comeback.

Zaheer had to miss the last match owing to an injury, but cleared a stringent fitness test on Thursday.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, on Friday, the specialist bowlers will almost surely be Nehra, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan and veteran Anil Kumble. “Harbhajan (Singh) did a fine job on his return, against Bangladesh, but if only one spinner is picked then it’s going to be Kumble,” is how one source put it.

Balaji did have an awful game versus Bangladesh, conceding 16 wides, but his excellent show in Pakistan (earlier this year) ensures he won’t be relegated to a dressing-room chair at the Premadasa Stadium.

The Indians had a full-fledged workout in the afternoon, nothing exceptional about that, but V.V.S. Laxman again got hit on the left knee — this time by Zaheer. In Dambulla, on the eve of the match against Sri Lanka, he was struck there by Nehra.

Back at the Taj Samudra, Laxman said: “There’s some swelling and pain too... Let’s see how it goes.” Speaking exclusively, though, captain Sourav Ganguly had this to say: “Even if he’s half-dead, Laxman will play... It’s such a crucial game, a virtual semi-final, as Sri Lanka are almost through...”

Fortunately, the IndianOil-sponsored Asia Cup clash is a day-night match and, so, Laxman gets a few more hours to recover.

Looking to the most high-profile fixture of the tournament, coach John Wright remarked he expects “a tough, tight game.” He continued: “Keeping wickets intact in the first 15 overs is going to be critical... Given all the attention, hopefully, we will have a good wicket that day...”

Asked about his opposite number, Bob Woolmer, Wright replied: “He’s very experienced and has been a great student of the sport... I have much respect for him...”

Meanwhile, Pakistan had focussed nets in the morning. Later, Woolmer observed: “Last evening, quite a few things were discussed at our video analysis and, today, everything went off fine at the workout. Obviously, we’ve worked on technical aspects.”

For me, the past is a baggage and ‘fetch’ it if it helps. Otherwise, just forget about it

About his message to the boys ahead of the face-off, he answered smiling: “It’s simple... That the past is history, in other words, the loss at home earlier in the year shouldn’t weigh down anybody... For me, the past is a baggage and ‘fetch’ it if it helps. Otherwise, just forget about it.”

Woolmer announced that Imran Farhat had a “50-50” chance of playing. The opener, it may be recalled, twisted his left ankle shortly before Wednesday’s match versus Sri Lanka and has since monopolised physio Darren Lifson’s attention.

So, it’s going to be a wait-and-watch approach.

Postscript: Wright took ill late in the evening, but declined to be treated by a hotel-nominated doctor. Instead, he opted to receive medication from physio Andrew Leipus.

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