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Agarkar doubtful for Brisbane encounter

India's threadbare bowling attack suffered a blow with Agarkar ruled a doubtful starter for the VB series match against Australia.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2004 03:45 IST

India's threadbare bowling attack suffered a further blow with the in-form Ajit Agarkar ruled a doubtful starter for the triangular one-day series match against Australia on Sunday.

Agarkar is suffering from a stiff calf muscle, which is the result of the workload he has undertaken in the present series, and his unavailablity could upset India's plans to make amends for their 18-run defeat in the tri-series opener to the hosts.

But Indian captain Sourav Ganguly put up a brave front and promised to "pick up overall intensity" against the world champions in the flooldlit encounter at the Gabba.

Australia put India up on notice with a record 344 for seven against a hapless Zimbabwe yesterday but India have proved they are made of tougher stuff and would look to give a fitting reply to the hosts who are unbeaten in the tournament so far.

The Aussies are perched atop the table with 17 points from three outings while India have 7 points from a win and a defeat. Zimbabwe are yet to open their account.

Ganguly also appeared unperturbed by the return of form of big-hitter Adam Gilchrist and did not think that the Aussies hold an edge over them in one-day competition.

"We have to pick our overall intensity which served us so well in the past one year. We have to play up to our standards and fire as best as we could tomorrow," said the skipper as he inspected the pitch at the Gabba.

It has been raining for the past one week and even today there was a fresh spell of showers but Ganguly admitted he was surprised to see the wicket was still dry. It had a spread of fresh grass and should assist seamers, he felt.

But more than anything it is the injury worry to Agarkar which has been troubling Ganguly the most on the eve of the match.

Agarkar's woes are a result of the workload he has undertaken in the present series, including 154 overs in the Tests and 16-odd in the two triseries games.

The wiry medium-pacer has been very much the pick of Indian bowlers, alongside Anil Kumble, and his bowling share, compared to Zaheer Khan (51), Ashish Nehra (101) and Irfan Pathan (68) is a testimony to how much Ganguly has come to rely on this bowler from Mumbai.

He also has the wickets to justify Ganguly's reliance on him, 16 scalps in the Tests and six in the two one-dayers. He has recorded his best figures in the Tests e as well in the one-dayers - 6 for 42 at Melbourne and both have come against the strong batting line-up of the world champions.

If Agarkar is ruled out, the Indian pace attack could be severely exposed as it would have to rest on the inexperienced Irfan Pathan, Laxmipathy Balaji and Amit Bhandari.

But Indian batting is still booming and the openers, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, have so far given an almost perfect start to the innings.

In fact India's batting has the potential to cover up for bowling and fielding woes, as it nearly did at Melbourne but it would not happen everyday.

The Indian camp had a relaxed air about it all today in the nets, more so since they know they are almost assured of a berth in the finals.

Zimbabweans have looked out-of-sorts and it looks unlikely they would be able to throw up a real challenge to the World Cup 2003 finalists.

India's fifth bowler's slot worked nicely in Hobart and Virender Sehwag, Hemang Badani, Tendulkar and Ganguly are quite capable of taking care of 10 or more overs.

Australians bat very deep and even when their top order fails, the rest can significantly lift their game. They were 88 for 4 at one stage against India and still made 288 thanks to the pugnacity of their lower half.

Keeping this factor in mind, India are once again expected to go into the match with seven batsmen and Rahul Dravid would continue to keep wickets.

Ganguly confirmed the strategy saying "we cannot drop our guard at this stage. Rahul would keep wickets," but added he would think of having a specialist wicketkeeper roped in when they have made sure of a berth in the finals.

The Gabba usually produces high-scoring matches and the best total at the ground the free-stroking batsmen of both sides.

The highest chase managed has been 284 for 3 by West Indies against Australia in 1996-97. These are the benchmarks which quite as well may get revised on Sunday.

Australia: Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Michael Bevan, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Brad Williams, Andrew Bichel and Ian Harvey.

India: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Hemang Badani, Yuvraj Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble, Laxmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan and Amit Bhandari.

First Published: Jan 17, 2004 13:09 IST