The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Motivation won't be a problem, feels Dravid
- Shane Warne breaks right thumb at nets, out of fourth Test

Mumbai: 'Tiger' Pataudi opened the bowling at Edgbaston 37 years ago and, on the first Revival Tour (1978-79), Sunil Gavaskar did the same in Lahore. Now, Sachin Tendulkar will probably join that distinguished list of non-regulars who have partnered a specialist.

Quite radical, given that the Indians are so conservative with their cricket. However, the four-Test series ' sponsored by TVS ' has already been lost and something out of the ordinary could just help arrest a morale-crushing run against the Australians.

Eventually, of course, it's going to be stand-in captain Rahul Dravid's call. 'Whatever I may feel in the morning, Rahul has to be comfortable with the balance of the side,' is how coach John Wright put it, in a chat with The Telegraph on Tuesday afternoon.

Dravid himself maintained he was keeping options open: Either all three spinners (Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik) and Zaheer Khan or Ashish Nehra in place of Kartik.

The last time three spinners (Kumble, Harbhajan, Sarandeep Singh) played was during the Bangalore Test versus England 35 months ago. Centrestage, though, was taken by the elements.

It's the unusually dry Wankhede wicket which has made the Team India thinktank look at giving the new ball to Sachin. Had Sourav Ganguly been fit, he would definitely have opened with Zaheer.

Speaking exclusively, Sachin had this to say: 'Am I excited about possibly opening the bowling' Well, I can't react... I haven't yet been told anything.' Till the other day, the maestro's leg-spin was in demand. Now...

While it's to be seen whether Nehra makes a comeback, there's absolutely no uncertainty over opener Gautam Gambhir and 'keeper Dinesh Karthik making their debut.

Dravid had them in mind when he made an affectionate comment: 'It's nice to have fresh faces and we'll be making them comfortable... Hopefully, they're going to provide the spark that's needed...'

Actually, the squad has two other rookies ' Shib Shankar Paul and Dheeraj Subhas Jadhav.

The bit about new faces apart, Dravid felt motivation wouldn't be a problem. 'I hope I don't have to motivate... It's never needed in a Test... But, yes, we haven't played well and Australia punished us in Nagpur...

'It's not that we didn't plan for the series... We haven't been executing our game plan right... One keeps learning and each of the first three Tests has taught us something,' he said.

Dravid, by the way, didn't get into a 'debate' over the wicket. 'It's not about feeling comfortable or uncomfortable... One has to do one's best on the surface that's provided.'

It's another matter, perhaps, that the Indians had strong views on what was offered in the last Test ' Nagpur.

[Incidentally, the Wankhede curator is former India captain Polly Umrigar. He has been honoured by having one of the two main gates named after him. And, on Monday night, the CCI saluted Umrigar by adding his name to the chic Sportsman's Bar. Predictably, the initiative was taken by president Raj Singh Dungarpur.]

Meanwhile, Australia's push towards a 3-0 scoreline suffered a setback as world record-holder Shane Warne has a broken right thumb. He was hit at Tuesday morning's nets by one of the local bowlers and could head home in a couple of days.

Indications are that uncapped offie Nathan Hauritz will take Warne's place. However, somewhat in the picture is another rookie spinner, Cameron White.

Glenn McGrath, by the way, has recovered from mild flu. 'I'm fit,' he declared, pretty enthusiastically, late on Tuesday.

The Australians don't have an excellent record in 'dead' Tests, but Ricky Ponting (back as captain and at No. 3) pointed out 'one of the great strengths' of his side was that everybody kept himself 'motivated.'

Asked if he felt sorry at Adam Gilchrist having to give up the captaincy, despite winning the series, Ponting quipped: 'I probably felt more sorry when I broke my (left) thumb in the Champions Trophy and the captaincy went to Adam... I then thought I'd dropped it on him...'

Ponting summed up the Australians' confidence by remarking 'our skills can't get better... That's why we've only had light training for the last couple of days...'

In Ponting's opinion, 'sustained pressure' knocked India out in Bangalore and Nagpur. He added: 'Our bowlers kept to a disciplined line and the fielders backed them... But, yes, we can and are going to get even better.'

India, Ponting noted, are in a 'win-win situation.' Had circumstances been otherwise, that would be a terrific position to be in. Fact is, today, even the fans seem to have given up: Just 50 per cent of the season tickets have been sold.

There's much that Dravid and Co. must do.


INDIA: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S.Laxman, Mohammed Kaif, Dinesh Karthik, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik/Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan.

AUSTRALIA (likely): Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Michael Clarke, Simon Katich, Adam Gilchrist, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz, Glenn McGrath, Nathan Hauritz.

Umpires: Rudi Koertzen, Aleem Dar; (TV) K.Hariharan.

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