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Team has lot to play for: Malhotra

The Indian team's stop-gap coach, Ashok Malhotra, feels the Dhaka-bound squad has a lot to play for. "Playing for India is a great motivation," Malhotra said on Monday.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2003 16:59 IST
Saibal Bose
Saibal Bose

The Indian cricket team's stop-gap coach, Ashok Malhotra, feels the Dhaka-bound squad has a lot to play for. "Playing for India is a great motivation," Malhotra, who has played in seven Test matches and 20 one-day internationals, said on Monday.

The fact that for players like Gautam Gambhir, Abhijit Kale, Amit Mishra and Avishkar Salvi even a good show in Dhaka might not be enough to prolong their stay in the international arena doesn't seem to be playing on the coach's mind.

"You never know," he said. "Six months later, one of these players might still be in the India squad. That they would be rubbing shoulders with some of the best in Indian cricket, should spur them to perform well. And I am sure they will perform well."

Despite the absence of big stars, Malhotra expects the squad to shine. "I won't call this a depleted squad. It is how you look at a glass -- half empty or half full. These boys can step into the vacancies quite smoothly."

Motivation might be a problem for Malhotra himself, as he will be the coach for just one match.

John Wright will take over from the second match and Malhotra will assist him. However, Malhotra says he is not too worried about that either.

Having watched the new faces in the squad quite closely in the past few months, Malhotra feels they are a talented lot. "In fact, I have seen all the players in the squad from close quarters. Don't forget, I was a national selector for four years."

Malhotra was the coach of the India A squad that competed in the Carib Beer series in the West Indies. "I was coaching them for four-day matches then, but in Dhaka they will have to play in one-dayers. It is a different ball game, but they should not have problems."

Even the day-night conditions will not be too much of a bother, feels Malhotra. "Although they have not played in too many games under lights, I am sure they will adjust. The Challengers are played under lights and quite a few of these new boys have played under lights in this tournament. I have played in quite a few day-night matches and can tell you it is easier to spot the white ball."

The April heat of Dhaka too should not trouble them much as "they are used to playing in places like Mumbai."

As far as Sourav Ganguly is concerned, Malhotra said he isn't aware that the skipper has expressed reluctance in travelling to Bangladesh. Malhotra feels South Africa would be tough opponents, particularly as they would have a few points to prove after their early World Cup exit. "That team is rebuilding and the players would want to perform well."

The Indian players will gather in Kolkata on Tuesday and the squad will leave for Dhaka the next day. Malhotra informed that the first team meeting is scheduled for Dhaka after they reach there. For the record, Sunil Gavaskar was also a stopgap coach in 1993-94 in Sharjah when Ajit Wadekar had suffered a heart attack. Malhotra is thus, in elite league.

First Published: Apr 08, 2003 01:58 IST