The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Greg gags oxygen to flop memories
- India hopes to break three-year title jinx, Shane Bond willing

Calcutta, Sept. 5: It’s the second tournament final for Team India in less than a month and the hope, really, is that the title-round jinx ends tomorrow.

The latest final, against New Zealand, is in Harare.

India has not won a tournament singly (last being the NatWest Series) for over three years, and none at all since sharing the tri-series in Dhaka (April 2003) with South Africa.

“I accept India’s record hasn’t been great in finals, but I believe the past is relevant only if you give it oxygen,” coach Greg Chappell told The Telegraph.

[In Harare, captain Sourav Ganguly observed: “Instead of worrying and worrying, I would ask my boys to just treat it as another game. We have to take the situation of a final out of our heads.”]

Speaking this evening, Chappell added: “It’s certainly going to be a big test'. Having said that, I’m happy the team is improving in the areas it needed to. There’s an increased awareness of what needs to be done.

“There’s a process to be followed and if the focusing is right, the dividends will be there. Of course, the process may take time.”

The focus bit is going to figure prominently in Chappell’s ‘presentation’ at the team meeting.

With three wins on the trot, after losing to New Zealand in the opener, the mood is pretty upbeat. Yet, the Shane Bond factor can’t be discounted.

Not that Chappell is the type to give more respect than is warranted.

“Bond is a very fine bowler and his presence gives the New Zealand attack potency. Yet, he’s one member of the opposition and our preparations won’t centre around him only,” Chappell maintained.

The tearaway had been unplayable (six for 19) in the opener. He was rested for the ‘return’ match, which India won by six wickets last Friday.

Most Team India well-wishers are concerned over the failure of Sourav and vice-captain Rahul Dravid (even Virender Sehwag), but Chappell is looking at the “positives.”

“I know the most experienced batsmen haven’t got runs, but the law of averages could work in their favour. Right now, I’d rather talk of the positives --- for example, the maturity of the middle-order,” he remarked.

Sourav has just managed 46, while the usually supremely reliable Dravid has totalled 64. Sehwag, who missed one game, has collected 72 --- with a quickfire 45 as his best.

The “positives” include 24-carat centuries by Mohammed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh --- in demanding situations --- and excellent fifties by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

It was a lost cause, but Jai Prakash Yadav’s statement-making 69 in the opener, the highest by any No.9 in ODIs, can’t be ignored either.

The bowling hasn’t exactly been consistent, but Ajit Agarkar’s efforts have surely extended his career.

Yesterday’s MoM Yuvraj had kind words for Chappell (and sports scientist Ian Frazer), but the coach isn’t taking any credit for the Punjab star cracking two centuries in his last six innings.

The gifted middle-order bat, who will soon complete five years of international cricket, required 106 innings to get his first two centuries.

“Yuvraj has been generous' He’s the one who has scored and done the hard work' He deserves all the praise' At best, I’ve helped lift his confidence' Given him positive thoughts,” Chappell pointed out.

Sourav, too, could do with positive thoughts. He hasn’t fired for ages --- in fact, his last ODI century was in the 2003 World Cup semi-final versus Kenya --- and, as he accepted last evening, must continue to fight it out.

“The next match, perhaps, is going to be my game,” Sourav quipped at the presentation ceremony after the win over Zimbabwe.

Let’s hope so.

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