Plenty of motivation left for India
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Plenty of motivation left for India

After Saturday?s match, selection committee will pick the squad for South Africa series, writes Nilankur Das.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2005 02:12 IST

After a very long time, the final match of a home series in India is not the real final. And although there is enough interest in this small town to fill up the 20,000 capacity stands when India play the seventh match of the series against Sri Lanka at the IPCL ground here on Saturday, one might wonder what is in it for the players.

Before the fifth match in Ahmedabad, Mahela Jayawardene had said they would look to the remaining matches as a new three-match series. On Friday, India coach Greg Chappell said pretty much the same thing. And going by that, the new sub-series is tied 1-1. That’s for motivation.

Right after Saturday’s match, there is the selection committee meeting to pick the squad for the five-match series against South Africa, which begins in Hyderabad on November 16. That’s for further motivation.

The body language in the Indian camp during the long net session— after a day off on Thursday— showed they were taking this match seriously. Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan batted first and then Tendulkar and Sehwag came back for a second batting session after everyone was through.

Tendulkar’s urge to keep on batting, and then wanting to bat again, is understandable— everyone knows him for that. But Sehwag? Or is it the rotational policy? For if it is, then that’s reason No. 3 for the Indians to keep up the good work.

Skipper Rahul Dravid spelt out the fourth: “We want to make winning a habit,” he said after announcing that Gautam Gambhir and JP Yadav will be rested for the match.

Gambhir was not keeping well and yes it was the rotational policy, Chappell said, adding in the same breath that Sehwag’s form was not a concern. “Sehwag is not just a batsman,” he said. “He contributes with the ball and is a good support to skipper Dravid. He is a player youngsters look up to. Yes, we would like to get some more runs from him but as long as the others are doing the job pretty well, he can take it a little easy for the time being,” Chappell added.

But not everything was right in the Sri Lanka camp. Starting the series as the second-best side in one-dayers, they are now down to fourth, behind Pakistan. Sanath Jayasuriya is unlikely for this match, according to sources, while Farveez Maharoof is injured. Maharoof had split the webbing in his right hand in the last match.

Even Muttiah Muralitharan did not train with the team initially, but joined the fielding session later. “He's always eager to play but it's important how we handle him. We need to take long-term plans into consideration,” Kumar Sangakkara, who attended the pre-match media conference instead of skipper Marvan Atapattu or coach Tom Moody, said. Of course, he could not throw much light on Jayasuriya’s omission and said: “He has been a great performer for some time and I am sure he will bounce back.” He can, if he gets a chance on Saturday.

But ironically, it is the Sri Lankans who are facing problems with the new rules— more so with the Power Play. Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana had pioneered the art of hitting over the top with the field restrictions set. And they have to come up with something soon.

The Indians, on the other hand, have been on the ball. “We have done well with the Super-sub and the Power Play,” Dravid said. “But all the teams are yet to settle down and we will have to see what happens then,” he said.

The ground looks lush and the wicket has a reddish tinge to it, much like the soil here. So with little grass left, it’s likely to be a batsman’s paradise.

However, heavy dew in the early hours may give the opening bowlers an initial say. The curator, though, predicted that it was a "280 pitch".

“It looked very good and I think we will have a good game of cricket tomorrow,” Dravid said. Sangakkara ducked: “I am not good at reading wickets. It’s only after I play will I be able to tell you.”

First Published: Nov 12, 2005 02:12 IST