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India to persist with Dravid as opener

Unfazed by Dravid's flop show in Melbourne, Indian think tank persists with Dravid, leaving out Sehwag.

cricket Updated: Jan 01, 2008 21:26 IST

India have decided to persist with Rahul Dravid as opener despite his poor form as they go into the second cricket Test against Australia on Wednesday with a question mark on the avaibility of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan.

Zaheer, a vital cog in India's bowling attack, suffered a muscle pull during the net session forcing the team management to wait till Thursday to take a decision on his inclusion for the crucial game.

Unfazed by Dravid's flop show in Melbourne where India crashed to one of their biggest Test defeats, the think tank has decided to persist with him as an opener by leaving out Virender Sehwag from the playing eleven.

Many former cricketers had called for Sehwag's inclusion in the team but the Indians apparently are in no hurry to tinker with the batting line-up on a SCG track which was expected to provide some assistance to the quick bowlers.

While the injury to Zaheer has come as a big blow for the jittery Indians, there was at least some good news for the visitors with Sourav Ganguly, who was down with high fever, having recovered fully.

In case Zaheer does not recover, Irfan Pathan was likely to take his place in the playing eleven with the team management having sounded out the Baroda paceman to be mentally ready to take the field.

The crushing 337-run defeat in the opening Test will no doubt have a demoralising effect on the visitors who need to put up an inspired show to stop Australia from equalling a record-breaking sequence of 16 consecutive Test wins.

The Australians have opted to retain the same team that did duty in Melbourne, which means that the talented Shaun Tait will have to wait for his chance.

Indian Skipper Anil Kumble stressed the need for his batsmen to break the shackles and play freely in the game. "It's very important to get partnerships. When we had that 60-70 run stand (between Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly) it was fine. When we have a partnership, it's important to go on and make a big score," Kumble said.

"I thought our batters were very uptight in Melbourne. They needed to play their natural game," he said. Australian captain Ricky Ponting, on the other hand, sounded confident and said his team had the momentum going into the match after the huge vicctory in Melbourne.

"We have the momentum going but if we just sit back and expect it to happen, India is a good enough side to let the momentum going. It could cause us a headache," he cautioned.

The Australian captain felt too much was being made about India's lack of preparation for this series having been granted just a solitary first class game.

"I think too much is being made of it. They came after a three-Test series against Pakistan. They played on a track which was more suited to their style of playing," he said.

"A lot is being made of India's batting but it was to the credit of our bowlers that we didn't let them have a lot of scoring opportunities," he added.

Ricky Ponting's men have tasted blood and are chasing their 16th successive Test win which would put them at par with Steve Waugh's record shattering Australians of early 2000.

All the batsmen, barring captain Ricky Ponting, ran themselves into some sort of form at the MCG but it was their bowling which caught the eye.

Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson have made it an almost seamless transition in the post Glenn McGrath-Shane Warne era and are now quite adept at delivering blows even on pitches which are more like sub-continental tracks.

Curator Tom Parker has predicted that the pitch would be more favourable for fast bowlers than it has ever been in the past.

"I think we will see a lot of bounce and good carry in it. I do not see any gremlins in it. I expect it to be a very similar to the Ashes deck last year," Parker said.

Teams:
Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Matthew Hayden, Phil Jacques, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson and Brad Hogg.

India (from): Anil Kumble (capt), Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Mahinder Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Rudra Pratap Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma.

Umpires: Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson
Match Referee: Mike Procter
Hours of play (IST): 5.00 am to 7.00 am, 7.40 am to 9.40 am, 10.00 am to 12.00 pm.