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Now, India must perform or perish

With WI already through, India can't lose focus, writes C Shekhar Luthra.Is Viru's demotion justified?

india Updated: Sep 20, 2006 12:58 IST

Ever since India returned from the West Indies two months ago, some important issues that they felt they should have ironed out have remained undone, for one reason or the other.

Straight off, their plan to use the tri-series here to experiment ahead of the Champions Trophy has been seriously hampered by the lack of real-time match practice.

On Wednesday, when they take on the West Indies at the Kinrara Oval, in what is basically a perform or perish kind of situation — they really cannot take a chance of their game against Australia on Friday being rained out if they lose this — there is bound to be tremendous pressure. Not just on Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell but also on some of the non-performers in the team.

The biggest worry for India seems to be Irfan Pathan’s free-fall. Watching Pathan bowl slow medium-pace during nets and in the first two ODIs has left many surprised.

Chris Gayle didn’t mince his words. “Irfan started off as a tough bowler and a good all-rounder. His bowling has deteriorated a bit,” said Gayle.

Chappell seemed ambivalent. While he admitted, “all players and teams go through bad form,” he added that there was no doubting that Pathan had bowled better in the past and is now “struggling”.

“It would be better for him to look at different things and try different roles in the team,” said Chappell.

He also spoke on Pathan’s much-debated elevation to the No 3 spot. “In these conditions, it is probably the best role for him. But that could change. It depends on conditions and the game’s situation. He is doing a good job but it is not cast in stone.”

Another question doing the rounds is over Sehwag’s demotion in the batting order. Though Sehwag has maintained complete silence on the issue, team sources indicated that all is not quite hunky-dory behind the bonhomie on display.

Chappell justified Sehwag’s being pushed down. “As I often say, we are trying to get the best combine before the World Cup  and using bowlers and batters in different positions to try and make the team more versatile.”

Meanwhile, there is no news on why Sreesanth has not been included in the first XI of the last two games — though there is some talk of him being in on Wednesday.

But what has suddenly made him so untouchable after being hailed as India’s “best fast bowling prospect” by the management only a few weeks ago?

On a final note, the coach, incidentally, has asked people not to “jump to conclusions” about him being upset or furious because of the way he looks at certain times.

“Just because I look like this does not mean I am upset. I am thinking hard and I am looking at different things,” Chappell explained about the almost constantly grim face he sports these days.

India would be hoping Wednesday will have him smiling.

Teams

India: Dravid (capt), Tendulkar, Pathan, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Raina, Dhoni (wk), Agarkar, Harbhajan, Sreesanth, Munaf, RP Singh.

West Indies: Lara (capt), Gayle, Chanderpaul, Sarwan, Bravo, Samuels, Morton, Hinds, Smith, Baugh (wk), Bradshaw, Collymore.