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Depleted India keen to keep Zimbabwe down

Though Sachin has been ruled out, India are unlikely to risk either Sehwag or Agarkar on Tuesday.

india Updated: Jan 19, 2004 14:46 IST

Fresh from their landmark victory against Australia in their own den, India will miss the services of an injured Sachin Tendulkar as they go into the triangular one-day series match against minnows Zimbabwe on Tuesday, hoping to join the world champions atop the points table.

The visitors are down to their last fit man but Zimbabwe does not hold any terror to them in Tuesday's floodlit match at the Gabba.

Though Tendulkar has been ruled out for the match due to an ankle injury, the Indians were unlikely to risk either Virender Sehwag or Ajit Agarkar against the Zimbabweans as all three are under physio Andrew Leipus' attention and in various stages of mend.

It leaves captain Sourav Ganguly with narrow choices and forces his hand on Sanjay Bangar or Parthiv Patel, the two players who figure last in his scheme of things in the present series.

The Indians were in the second position on the table with 12 points from three outings and will be keen to garner the maximum six points to catch up with Australia who have 18 points from four matches. Zimbabwe were yet to open their account having lost all the three matches by huge margins.

Bangar appears more withdrawn into his shell after the disaster at Melbourne in the series opener when he ran out his captain and contributed little with either bat or ball.

Patel is a specialist wicketkeeper and a batsman who gave glimpses of flowering in the productive Test series but he takes a man out for Ganguly since Rahul Dravid juggles with the two jobs competently.

Ganguly is also unlikely to disturb the bowling combination which stood up to the heat against Australia yesterday, which means left-arm spinner Murali Kartik and Amit Bhandari may not get a look-in.

Irfan Pathan, Laxmipathy Balaji and Ashish Nehra gelled well against Australia yesterday and get their captain's vote. Anil Kumble has made the spinner's slot all for himself because of his riches in the Tests.

Bangar and Patel add up to the 14 who are up for selection and Ganguly, despite his reluctance, will have to make his choice between them.

There is another issue of openers to sort out and Ganguly admits he has not made up his mind on his partner for tomorrow's match.

"I sure will be opening, but we will have to wait and see who comes out as my partner," Ganguly said. Laxman's reluctance to open is well known and so is Dravid's and the lot could fall on the young shoulders of Yuvraj Singh or Hemang Badani.

The challenge presents both Yuvraj and Badani an opportunity to show that there is more to them than a few slogs in the lower order. Batting up the order, both could have a chance to build their innings rather than run helter-skelter or heave a few big hits to the outfield.

Rohan Gavaskar might have got his first chance due to a late entry in the injury dossier, in this case Virender Sehwag, but by the evidence of yesterday, starts as an automatic choice against Zimbabwe.

The young man with the famous surname showed a cool head in everything he was required to do, whether with the bat, ball or in the field. He plucked two catches, both eye-catching when he caught Andrew Symonds in his follow through and then when he held on to a good hit from Ian Harvey at the square-leg fence. His throwing and the commonsense he displayed in the three balls he faced has prepared everyone to have a longer look at him.

Zimbabwe is relying too heavily on Heath Streak for a decent batting and bowling performance, but the skipper doing all the job is unlikely to happen everytime.

In the absence of Andy Flower, who quit the team protesting against the Robert Mugabe regime, it is high time the talented likes of Stuart Carlisle, Sean Ervine, Grant Flower, and Andy Blignaut came good.

So vast is the gulf between the two teams in terms of batting might that even a deficient India is capable of either setting up a huge total or chasing one themselves under the lights.

India (from): Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Hemang Badani, Rohan Gavaskar, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra, Laxmipathy Balaji and Sanjay Bangar.

Zimbabwe: Visu Sibanda, Staurt Carlistle, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Mark Vermuelen, Grant Flower, Heath Streak, Tatenda Taibu, Andy Blignaut, Raymond Price, Douglas Hondo and Sean Ervine.

First Published: Jan 19, 2004 14:46 IST