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Another batting feast in store for the fans

The first thing that strikes you about the IPCL ground here, where India and the West Indies will finish up their Gujarat yatra, is the serenity.

india Updated: Nov 18, 2002 00:57 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali

The first thing that strikes you about the IPCL ground here, where India and the West Indies will finish up their Gujarat yatra, is the serenity.

The underlying fear in the state over what the VHP is up to, the strong sense of polarisation of a people that is evident in little things, the fanatic hordes that run after the team bus and adroitly avoid the swing baton, they all seem far away.

And then, you are literally far from the madding (or maddening) crowd here because it's a couple of kilometres off the highway, perched on the edge of the city. The approach is wooded and the combination succeeds in creating a sense of the unreal. The stragglers, the hawkers, the noise and the pollution of Ahmedabad and Rajkot and even the bustle of Vadodara itself, seem to be in some distant past.

The beautifully maintained ground will play a crucial part in deciding which way this series will go - the teams come into the match with honours even and with only two matches after this, the pressure will really pile up on whichever team ends up the loser here.

And, as has been the case throughout this series, it looks like he who bats best, will come out on top.

Sourav Ganguly and Carl Hooper agreed on one thing after the teams finished practice - the wicket has a lot of runs in it with something in it for the paceman early on.

"But it's not surprising," said Hooper. "It's been like this throughout the tour. Huge scores in India are not new and though we could have hoped that the wickets here gave a little assistance to the bowlers, it's okay. The Board was bound to prepare one-day wickets and it did."

While Hooper also said that the West Indies was under no illusions about India’s capablities, he insisted that the West Indies were good enough to win the next three games. He added that the momentum probably is with India despite the brilliance of Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

The tourists are also plagued with injury problems. Ryan Hinds is returning to the Caribbean after injuring ligaments in the knee in Friday's match. That might not be that much of an issue, but the Windies camp might soon resemble a hospital if the others don't get fit soon.

Hooper's right knee remains a problem, he requires surgery and the faster he gets it done, the faster it will recover in time for the World Cup in South Africa.

In addition, paceman Merv Dillon is unlikely to play due to a lower back strain. And if he doesn’t take field on Monday, Collymore is likely to get a look in.

Then, Cameron Cuffy has not yet recovered from his hamstring injury and that adds to the pressure on West Indies bowling.

There are question marks also over Pedro Collins's back, Marlon Samuels' ankle (he twisted it while getting run out in the last game). Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who left the field in Ahmedabad as he was suffering from a stomach upset, is still under the weather and has a suspected upper thigh strain.

On the other hand, the Indian team has a problem of plenty, except in the bowling department, which remains a worry but doesn't seem to be making much difference to either side on this tour.

India are on an incredible high after completing the third highest chase in one-day history in the last game at Ahmedabad and the intense competition for almost every place in the side has everyone raring to go.

The confidence and the general mind-set showed in little things on Sunday morning. Ganguly's light-hearted banter during the press conference; a very relaxed-looking Rahul Dravid making time to sign autographs and chat with people; Virender Sehwag stopping to scratch the ears and tickle Jyoti, the bomb-squad's golden Labrador; Sanjay Bangar's usually immobile face sporting a constant beam.

Ashish Nehra looked smug, too, though that was a mite inexplicable, as he will make way for Tamil Nadu's L Balaji in Monday's game. It will be an important debut for the young paceman as the Indians will also be keeping an eye on the trip to New Zealand, the team for which will be announced on 24th.

As there are only two Tests followed by the one-day series, only one composite squad of 16 is likely to be picked.

Nehra might find himself out of the squad for the last two games if Balaji has what the team wants.

All-rounder Reetinder Sodhi might be given a look-in and if he does, it will probably be a toss-up between Nehra and JP Yadav as to who gives way.

Ganguly’s dilemma

Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly is likely to leave the series midway as his father is to undergo his second bypass heart surgery in England. When asked, he told the mediamen, "If we win tomorrow, let’s see."

First Published: Nov 18, 2002 00:57 IST