Forget Friday blues, India hold the edge

Honours are even as India and South Africa go into the final. However, the subcontinent giants appear to have an edge.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2003 12:58 IST

Honours are even as India and South Africa go into the final of the TVS Cup at the Bangabandhu Stadium here on Sunday. However, the subcontinent giants appear to have an edge.

"We will try to repeat our performance against South Africa in the first match," coach John Wright said on Saturday. "This is a big game for us."

The Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly stressed that Friday's defeat has not changed the equations much. The last league game was not expected to indicate the form before the final and even though the Proteas would be happy with their win over India, they know the final is a different ball game. South Africa captain Graeme Smith admitted that India start as favourites.

Sourav Ganguly visited the Stadium late in the evening. Yuvraj Singh is certain to return to the playing XI but the rest of team would be declared on Sunday morning, he said. Zaheer Khan will have to take another fitness test on match day, he said.

Yuvraj, having recovered from a bout of fever, is fit and raring to go. His form in recent times makes him indispensable. Incidentally, Yuvraj holds the best average for batting and bowling in the tournament and is likely to replace Sanjay Bangar.

Avishkar Salvi could be asked to sit out too if Zaheer is found fit, although Wright said Salvi bowled very well on Friday and might retain his place. "In that case, Ajit Agarkar might be dropped." Agarkar is India's highest wicket-taker in this tournament so far.

India have decided to go in with two specialist spinners and Sarandeep Singh could retain his place at the expense of Amit Mishra. The off-spinner had a good day in office on Friday and should form a good partnership again with Harbhajan Singh.

Wright informed that Virender Sehwag has recovered from the rap that Makhaya Ntini served him on Friday. The tissue damage will not prevent him from taking the field on Sunday. He will be ready to open the innings once again with Gautam Gambhir.

Ganguly wants Sehwag to convert his good starts into a century and the final might just provide the right motivation to do it. "I hope he converts the starts into a big one tomorrow," Wright said.

Delhi youngster Gambhir scored a well-compiled 71 against Bangladesh on Wednesday, but has failed in the two innings against South Africa. Another big one is due and he might do well to stay longer at the wicket. He needs to settle down before going for his shots.

With Ganguly, Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj and Dinesh Mongia to follow, the batting has the depth to deliver.

The wicket for the final should be full of runs. "It is a dry wicket, unlike Friday," Wright said after a visit to the ground. The South Africans are capable of exploiting it as much as the Indians.

Herschelle Gibbs has proven qualities, although he has yet to fire in this tournament. Like Sehwag, Gibbs does not believe in the virtues of patience and can be expected to go for his shots early. Smith has been talking of using Shaun Pollock as a pinch-hitter. This hasn't materialised yet, but Pollock did throw his bat around for quick runs against Bangladesh on Thursday. Smith said he is waiting for the right moment to promote Pollock up the order.

Pollock is back at the helm of the South African bowing attack after Smith's experiments did not yield much result. Pollock himself is happy at getting back the new ball and has combined well with Ntini.

The teams (from):

India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Ajit Agarkar, Parthiv Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Sarandeep Singh, Zaheer Khan, Aavishkar Salvi, Amit Mishra, Sanjay Bangar, Abhijit Kale.

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Boeta Dippenaar, Jaques Rudoplh, Neil McKenzie, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Paul Adams, Allan Dawson, Andrew Hall, Makhaya Ntini, Charl Willoughy, Robin Peterson.

Umpires: Alim Dar (Pakistan) and Mahbub Rahman (Bangladesh).

Third umpire: Shawkatur Rahman (Bangladesh).

First Published: Apr 19, 2003 12:23 IST