DEEP READY FOR OPENERÍS MANTLE 

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By FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
  • Published 14.11.01
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Port Elizabeth, Nov. 14 :    Port Elizabeth, Nov. 14:  Deep Dasgupta had just returned to his room at the Holiday Inn last evening, after the day's full-fledged workout, when coach John Wright invited him to his room. What transpired wasn.t the usual coachplayer exchange of notes. One learns Wright asked the one-Test old Deep whether he will be .comfortable. opening the innings (with roommate Shiv Sundar Das) in the second Test, at St George's Park. The coach, of course, quickly added Deep didn.t have to give an immediate reply. Deep, though, was quick to answer he was game. That he would willingly accept the challenge of taking on one of the more feared attacks on the circuit. Not that Deep was looking for assurances, but Wright is understood to have said .possible failure. wouldn.t be held against him. Also, that as coach, he would 'stand up. for him. Actually, more than the runs Deep may score, his prompt response must have already earned him high marks in the coach's book: For Wright, attitude counts the most. In any case, it's a great opportunity for Deep. Unless there's an 11th-hour rethink, he will launch the Indian innings with Shiv Sundar. Less than a fortnight ago,Deep looked destined to be a reserve (or, passenger, to put it uncharitably) during this three-Test series. Then, Samir Dighe pulled a back muscle shortly before the toss in Bloemfontein and,well, the rest is history. Come Friday and 24-year-old Deep will add his name to India's long list of makeshift openers . significantly, he isn.t the first wicketkeeper assigned a crucial double role.This additional responsibility wouldn.t have come his way had either Rahul Dravid or V.V's. Laxman consented to open. Dravid, in fact, did the job in Test No.1. Essentially, however, the vice-captain remains a middle-order gem. . Frankly, I wasn.t surprised by what the coach had to say... After all, I somehow knew Rahulbhai was in a makeshift role (in Bloemfontein)... As I see it, once you make the XIV or XVI, you must be prepared for responsibility which can take any form. It's my duty, then, to be ready,. Deep told The Telegraph this morning. Speaking informally at the team hotel, he added: .The past six-seven months have been incredible... From the time I made the pre-season probables. list in May... I suppose, yes, it's all destiny's doing. Even when I first made it (tri-series squad), I was firm in declaring I would accept whatever fate had in store.... Incidentally, the .high. of Deep's Test debut had been preceded by the .low. of being dropped for the last two tri-series games (including the final). But, that is history. Of course, it shouldn.t surprise if, on Friday, Deep spends more time at his regular morning puja. .I.m God-fearing... Ganesh, Hanuman... I worship them all. Also, the Shirdi Sai Baba,. he revealed. Deep, for his part, confirmed he opened for Bengal only in his debut season, 1998-99 (knockout stage). What awaits him, therefore, is all the more challenging. .I.m not going to keep thinking about the task... That may complicate matters... I did face the second new ball, on the first evening and second morning of Test No.1... The one difference now could be that I may face the new ball on the very first morning.. He acknowledged the South African attack had to be closely watched. .It has variety: Shaun Pollock is deceptive and can keep landing the ball on one spot the whole day. Then, Mornantau Hayward is quick, while Jacques Kallis swings the ball... As for Makhaya Ntini, he has the pace and swing... I.m ready, though.. Among openers of the present generation, Deep admires recently-retired Mike Atherton the most. .His temperament was extraordinary and he would be content collecting ones and twos... Indeed, Atherton never gave his wicket cheap,. he remarked. Deep, too, intends putting a high price tag on his.