Thatscricket - Wish your star

Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2001, 20:38 [IST]
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New Delhi: Indian selectors are expected to retain Saurav Ganguly as captain for the upcoming tour of South Africa on Thursday despite his poor run as skipper and batsman in recent times.
India will field a full-strength side as batting superstar Sachin Tendulkar and ace leg spinner Anil Kumble declared themselves fit for the two-month tour starting later in September. The selectors will name the captain on Thursday and meet again the following day to pick the team for the Limited Overs tri-series against South Africa and Kenya. The team for the three Tests against South Africa in November will be finalised later. The 29-year-old Ganguly, who lost his first Test series as captain in Sri Lanka last week, said it would be nice to have a full-strength squad for the tough tour. "It will be good to have Kumble and Sachin back from injuries," said the out-of-form Ganguly, who has scored just one half-century in his last 16 Test innings. "Watching cricket on television due to injury can be frustrating and I am sure they are raring to go." Pressure has been steadily mounting on Ganguly since leading India to a remarkable 2-1 victory over World Champions Australia at home in March. India, under his captaincy, had the best chance of winning the first Test series outside the sub-continent in 15 years when it beat Zimbabwe in the opening Test at Bulawayo in June. But its hopes remained unfulfilled as India lost the second Test at Harare to draw the series 1-1. Ganguly's critics grew in number when his team lost the recent Test series in Sri Lanka, although he was badly handicapped by injuries to key players. Tendulkar, Venkat Sai Laxman, Kumble, Javagal Srinath (for the last two Tests) and Ashish Nehra all missed the series, making Ganguly's task more difficult. Experts, worried more by Ganguly's form than captaincy, feel that appointing a new captain for the South African tour may spell trouble for an Indian team already low on confidence. Former Test captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi said the captain was not solely to blame for the defeat to Sri Lanka. "A captain cannot do very much if the batsmen do not pass 250 in the first innings," he said, referring to India's 234 on a good batting wicket in the third and decisive Test at Colombo last week. "Ganguly has had a pretty rough tour, with some of the better players injured." A fit-again Tendulkar said on Wednesday he was looking forward to the South African tour. The master batsman, with 10,461 runs in 273 One-dayers and 6,919 in 84 Tests, pulled out of the Sri Lanka series due a toe injury sustained in Zimbabwe in July. But he denied the lack of match practice would affect his performance in South Africa. "I have been playing Test cricket for more than a decade and I do not think it would affect my batting," Tendulkar said. Tendulkar said new inner soles in his shoes, acquired from South Africa last week, had helped him tremendously. "The inner soles cushion the injured toe and I feel very comfortable when I run. I think I have fully recovered." The Indian team leaves for South Africa on September 24.

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