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India ready for fresh start in tri-series finals

India take on Australia in the first of the best-of-three cricket tri-series finals tomorrow at the MCG.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2004 18:52 IST

India would seek to put behind past disappointments when they take on world champions Australia on the familiar and docile pitch of the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the first of the best-of-three tri-series finals here on Friday.

India would be hampered by the injury-induced absence of in-form leg spinner Anil Kumble, who was today ruled unfit for the match, but skipper Sourav Ganguly sought to overcome the odds through some "special effort" by his team.

"Past does not matter. We did not have a great record in Australia in the past but in due course of the summer, it took a special effort from us to change that," Ganguly said after the training session on Thursday.

Ganguly was apparently referring to India's dismal record against Australia in the last one year. They lost the World Cup final before being humiliated at home in a tri-series summit clash. In the triangular series here, India have lost three matches to the hosts while winning just one in the league round.

But the India skipper was positive about the finals saying "we have all improved over the last couple of months. If we can finish it off well, it would be a nice way to go back home."

Kumble tried his very best in order to be able to play his part in this crucial phase of India's campaign, bowling and throwing at the nets this morning, but he would have to sit out considering his long-term fitness prospects.

Kumble is the only fitness worry for the Indians now and Ganguly would have a complete bunch of cricketers to pick from though it is unlikely his choice would deviate much from the straight and tested.

Much as the likes of Hemang Badani and Ashish Nehra have done to establish their credentials, it is unlikely Ganguly would tamper with his trusted line-up.

Badani played a match-winning hand against Zimbabwe at Perth on Tuesday but he is unlikely to be preferred ahead of Rohan Gavaskar who has been solid and consistent, if not spectacular.

Nehra is clearly lagging behind Irfan Pathan and L Balaji in the stakes for the medium-pacers' berth and his chances are not helped with the form of Ajit Agarkar.

Agarkar's bowling has been the story of this tour and as he showed against Australia in Perth on Sunday, he has lost none of the art of wicket-taking against the world champions.

The wiry Mumbai bowler has taken only nine wickets in the series but all of them have come against Australia, that too in just two games. His swing has been the major factor even though his length has bothered at times.

India would be hoping openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar would return to their run-making ways prior to the injury and there was much to suggest a certain eagerness in the two in the nets.

India would also be looking up to Rahul Dravid and Ganguly to fire at their batting best but should have no doubts over VVS Laxman who indicated against Zimbabwe in Perth he was still hungry for runs on the tour.

Laxman has so far scored 908 runs in Tests and one-dayers combined on this tour so far and certainly 1,000 runs from the summer is not beyond him.

Ganguly has asked his bowlers to bowl well in pairs, the way they did against Zimbabwe to bowl out the minnows for 135. Balaji in particular had two fine, accurate spells in Perth even though he did not pick all that many wickets.

Australia too are back to their full strength with the return of captain Ricky Ponting who was rested in their final league game against India.

The Aussies made good use of the rotation policy in the league but would take nothing for granted in the finals.

Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist had provided the early thrust to Australia's campaign but as soon as it became clear they were in the finals, both were rested in turns. Now they are back together and Australia would be hoping their feared openers would give them the best possible start.

Ponting, who had a splendid Test series with over 700 runs, would also be keen to make a valuable contribution as captain. He is also aware Damien Martyn is not among runs and Michael Clarke has lost his way a bit lately. Andrew Symonds though continues to be a pillar of strength.

More importantly, Australia would like their pace attack of Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Brad Williams to show the same intensity they displayed last week, albeit on a pitch tailor made for fast bowling.

The induction of experienced Michael Kasprowicz at the cost of Andy Bichel has added spice to the whole thing.

The pitch here had a tinge of grass but whether or not it stays tomorrow, Melbourne is unlikely to be Perth where the Indian batsmen stuttered and struggled to connect the bat with the ball.

Teams (from):

India: Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Rohan Gavaskar, Hemang Badani, VVS Laxman, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Laxmipathy Balaji and Ashish Nehra.

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

Umpires: Steve Bucknor (WI) and Simon Taufel (Aus)

Third umpire: Darryl Harper.

First Published: Feb 05, 2004 12:20 IST