Indian captain plots for his team... and others as well

Sourav Ganguly must be the busiest man at the World Cup ? he not only oversees the interests of own team but of his rivals as well.

india Updated: Mar 15, 2003 15:50 IST

Indian captain Sourav Ganguly must be the busiest man at the World Cup - he not only oversees the interests of own team but of his rivals as well.

In the end, he does what suits the Indians best.

Ganguly was delighted when his on-fire team brushed aside New Zealand by seven wickets at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on Friday.

The Indians had already made it to the semi-finals and there was no real significance to that game except it gave India their eighth win in nine World Cup matches so far and avenged the disappointment of the tour of New Zealand earlier this year.

But Ganguly was happy because the victory allowed Sri Lanka a chance to make an unexpected comeback in the tournament and book a semi-final berth provided they beat Zimbabwe on Saturday.

The Indian captain has no special love for the Asian neighbours.

It just that Ganguly wants Sri Lanka to take on reigning champions Australia in Tuesday's semi-final at Port Elizabeth because he believes the slow wicket at the St George's Park will be tailor-made for the likes of spinners Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya.

And if the Sri Lankans can knock out the Aussies, Ganguly believes it will improve India's chances of winning the World Cup if his team take care of surprise qualifiers Kenya in the other semi-final on Thursday.

"Frankly, we would rather face Sri Lanka in the final than Australia, but the Sri Lankans will have to beat Zimbabwe first and then Australia," Ganguly said after the win over New Zealand.

"It was just another win for us, but there were other factors involved as we want Sri Lanka to play Australia in the first semi-final at Port Elizabeth.

"I think Sri Lanka have a very good chance to beat the Aussies on that slow wicket."

The spade work done, Ganguly can now sit back and watch his chess-like moves bear fruit.

It remains to be seen though if Sri Lanka will return the compliment after Ganguly's men obliged Jayasuriya by beating New Zealand.

A Kiwi win on Friday would have taken Stephen Fleming's men into the semi-finals and made Saturday's game between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe at East London meaningless.

One man clearly impressed by Ganguly's captaincy at the World Cup is Rameez Raja, a member of Pakistan's World Cup winning squad in 1992.

"He's like Midas, everthing he touches is turning into gold," said Rameez, adding he was reminded of his own captain Imran Khan.

"Imran had much the same luck," said Rameez, who is here as a television commentator.

"He gave Ijaz Ahmed three overs in the final against England and even that worked. The way Sourav is going, India has a very good chance to win the World Cup."

The Indians have come a long way since February 15 when they crashed to their lowest World Cup total of 125 in the preliminary match against Australia, sparking angry protests at home.

Ganguly once said he was one of the most hated people in India. Like him or hate him, you just can't ignore the man.

First Published: Mar 15, 2003 15:50 IST