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India, New Zealand face a do-or-die situation

New Zealand skipper Fleming's absence may put Kiwis at a disadvantage against India today.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2003 12:37 IST

Floating lazily over the Lal Bahadur Stadium here, a yellow and red advertising balloon, proudly proclaimed: "Your new cricket stadium in 2004". And with most of the paying public looking up to the skies, seeking divine intervention as they search for elusive tickets, there is no chance of missing it.

Such is the game nowadays that gate sales have become irrelevant. For the virtual semi-final of the TVS Cup tri-series, to be played here on Saturday, there are reportedly only a fraction of general tickets up for sales. The rest are all complimentaries.

All these people would have loved to come in and watch the game, since there are few knockout matches in a league format tournament. India and New Zealand are both going into the game knowing well that this one will decide who meets Australia in the final on November 18.

Straightaway, the Kiwis are at a disadvantage, with skipper Stephen Fleming out of the running with a lower abdominal strain. Rated as one of the best skippers in the world, Fleming also adds considerable clout with the bat, and both these assets will be missing for New Zealand.

Also on the unfit list is Paul Hitchcock, leaving the visitors 12 players to select the final XI from, and that will be done on Saturday afternoon.

Chris Cairns has been named stand-in skipper for the game, which does not have a designated vice-captain. Cairns, who has played only two matches in the series - the rain-halted first game against Indian in Chennai, and the match against Australia in Pune - has led New Zealand once before, against Australia in Sydney last year. The Kiwis won that game by 23 runs.

As for India, they have been known to throw several surprises as far as team selection goes. But as things stand, there are indications so far that Mohammed Kaif will make way for Hemang Badani.

There is also a possibility of Anil Kumble being rested, with Harbhajan Singh returning to do the spin duties with Murali Karthik and other sundry bowlers.

Kumble is not here at present, since he is completing some rites back in Bangalore for his recently departed father. He is expected to arrive here later on Friday night.

The Lal Bahadur Stadium was the venue for the football tournament in the recently-concluded Afro-Asian Games. Scores of players with football spikes, playing on wet grounds, have left the field in rather uneven condition. Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly too was unsure how the pitch would behave, and hoped to find out as the game progressed.

Ganguly, however, made sure that some of the patches of grass seen on the track got a closer shave, getting the groundsmen to frantically shave much of the stuff off.

Considering the way the tracks have gone for most of this tournament, that may make very interesting reading indeed.

Most of the grass had been left there just to bind the track, and to make sure that it does not crumble, so how Friday's shearing changes it remains to be seen.

New Zealand do not have fond memories of Hyderabad. The last time they met India here, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid ran riot as the hosts scored 376 runs. Tendulkar got 186 and Dravid 153.

India have to win. They have the same number of points as New Zealand but the latter are ahead as they have beaten India once, and if it comes to a head-to-head situation, they will qualify for the final. As for the Kiwis, if they win, they would be happy on two scores.

One that they are in the title round, and second that they would be leaving India without suffering a loss at the hosts' hands, the first New Zealand team ever to do so.

Teams (from):

India: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Murali Karthik, Hemang Badani, Avishkar Salvi, Parthiv Patel.

New Zealand: Chris Cairns (captain), Lou Vincent, Craig McMillan, Chris Harris, Jacob Oram, Scot Styris, Brendon McCullum, Kyle Mills, Chris Nevin, Daryl Tuffey, Daniel Vettori, Paul Hitchcock, Ian Butler.

First Published: Nov 14, 2003 14:07 IST