Spinners will hold the key
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Spinners will hold the key

"Will there be any change in the batting order for the final against Sri Lanka tomorrow?" Sourav Ganguly was asked after the Indian team finished their net session.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2002 10:30 IST
Sunil Narula
Sunil Narula

"Will there be any change in the batting order for the final against Sri Lanka tomorrow?" Indian captain Sourav Ganguly was asked after the Indian team finished their net session at the Premadasa Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

"Sachin Tendulkar will bat at number four. If that is what you want to know," was Ganguly's emphatic reply.

India have reached the final of the Champions Trophy for the second successive time. In the last edition at Nairobi two years ago, they had lost in the final to New Zealand. Ganguly was at the helm in Nairobi too but he wants a different result this time. "Sachin is a terrific player and he does not need to prove anything to anybody. As soon he does not make runs in a couple of innings people just start talking for no reason at all. "I think it's a great achievement for our team to be reaching the final of the Champions Trophy for the second successive time. Hopefully we will win tomorrow" said Ganguly.

The other important issue was regarding the inclusion of paceman Javagal Srinath for Sunday's encounter.

"Srinath has left London and he will be reaching here by the evening. He was supposed to have come this morning but he missed an earlier flight. He will be playing tomorrow," said Ganguly.

"It was disappointing when he (Srinath) declined to play the Tests in England because we really needed him there. But that is all in the past. He is in contention for the World Cup next year. He has been in great form for Leicestershire in the county matches. And when this injury to Nehra occurred, we felt he was the best bowler to be called up," said Ganguly.

Ashish Nehra had split the webbing in his bowling hand in the semi-final against South Africa and needed five stitches. That injury has still not healed, forcing the team management to ask for a replacement. "This does not mean there is a lack of faith in the ability of Ajit Agarkar. He is a good support bowler. But Srinath is the bowler to open the attack with Zaheer," explained Ganguly.

India played Sri Lanka in the Natwest Series in England recently and went on to win the title. Sri Lanka failed to make it to the final in England but Ganguly says they are a completely different team in their own backyard.

"Sri Lanka are very difficult to beat in home conditions. But we are playing very well as a team. Batsmen on both sides play spin extremely well. Much better than the Australians. Even if the wicket starts taking turn early as it did last evening, it should be a good final tomorrow," said Ganguly.

Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya had said last night that both India and Lanka have an equally strong batting line-up, but the Lankans have a better bowling attack than India.

"I do not agree with that. Probably our bowling attacks are equal. But definitely the batting is not equal. We are much better in that department. Anyway there is not much point in talking before the match. It will all become clear tomorrow. What happens at the end of the match is important. What's important is who wins ultimately," said Ganguly.

The last time the two sides had met in Sri Lanka was in the final of the tri-series in August last year when New Zealand was the third team. India had gone down to the island team in the final. But right now the Indians are at the top of their game. A different result looks increasingly possible.

The Lankan middle order has been further strengthened by the return to form of 36-year-old Aravinda de Silva. Aravinda, who has lost more than 12 kilos with his rigorous physical training schedule, is in prime shape. His batting abilities have always been recognised the world over, but he can prove quite lethal on the turning Premadasa wicket even with his gentle off-spin as he showed in the semi-final against Australia last night. Whichever team masters the turning track on Sunday will have the better chance.

India: (twelve): Sourav Ganguly (capt), Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid (wk), Yuvraj Singh, Mohd Kaif, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar.

Sri Lanka: (from): Sanath Jayasuriya (capt), Marvan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakarra, Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene, Russel Arnold, Kumar Dharmasena, Upul Chandana, Chaminda Vaas, Pulasathi Gunaratne, Muttiah Muralitharan and Dilhara Fernando.

First Published: Sep 29, 2002 00:43 IST