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India to drop a bowler for extra batsman

The counter recurrent batting failures team may add a batsman in middle-order.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2006 15:29 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

The Antigua Recreation Ground became a Test venue in 1981, the year in which Antigua and Barbuda became an independent country.

The place has seen many historical moments, including the fastest century in Tests by Vivian Richards against England in 1986; the biggest ever run chase, by the home team against Australia in 2003; and Brian Lara's 375 and 400 not out, against England, in 1994 and 2004.

Friday's first Test between India and the West Indies will mark the beginning of the end of this ground's status as a stage for international cricket be cause the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium is set to take over as the next stop, come World Cup 2007.

This will coincide with India's quest for rewriting history in the sense that the visitors will launch their bid for a first series win in the Caribbean after 1971. Many had viewed this as their best chance to do so, until the 14 capitulations against Brian Lara's boys in the one-dayers.

After the ODI win, the hosts will go into this series with as much confidence as the Indians had embarked with on this trip.

Rahul Dravid refused to accept this, saying the areas where the team flopped in the ODIs are not as important in Test matches. "The weaknesses which let us down - like being unable to accelerate in the last 15 overs will not play a big role here," the captain said after the warm-up tie against Antigua XI.

The headache in the Indian camp was over the form of Irfan Pathan, and on whether to field four or five bowlers. As for the first, coach Greg Chappell and sports psychologist Rudi Webster spent close to an hour with Pathan in the field after the practice match.

Pathan took to bowling with Webster standing in as umpire and Chappell stationed at first slip.

One the question of to go in with five bowlers or not, Chappell told Hindustan Times he was inspired by the fact that historically, all great teams used as many.

"We could have thought otherwise if we had someone like Kapil and Srinath, or McGrath and Warne, who could bowl a lot and take many wickets."

The plan of fielding five bowlers means Dravid, Laxman and Yuvraj Singh will bat in the middle-order, with Dhoni taking care of the lower half. However, with Kaif getting a prolonged stay at the crease against Antigua before being called back, the possibility of dropping the fifth bowler can't be ruled out.

The pitch has a thick layer of dead grass on it. It's known to assist batsmen: It has seen three triple centuries, and eight centuries in one Test between South Africa and the hosts.

However, it was dug up and re-laid about 14 months ago, after which it is yet to host a Test. The curator predicted well, even bounce and added that if not anything else, it would not break over the five days.

This means the hosts are treating spin as India's forte and are not willing to make it easier for India's spinners.

The Indians are certainly not beginning the Test series as firm favourites as most expected them to.

First Published: Jun 02, 2006 10:29 IST