Thatscricket - News - Cricket: Indian cricketers face a tall order in South Africa
Published: Monday, September 24, 2001, 23:08 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
If we play to our potential we can win series: Ganguly
India to play two tour matches ahead of tri-series
Agarkar to replace Nehra for triangular series
New Delhi: Indian cricketers on Monday left for South Africa hoping to pull off a miracle despite a struggling captain and a depleted attack.[an error occurred while processing this directive]India, seeking its first Test series victory outside the sub-continent in 15 years, will take part in a triangular One-day series against South Africa and Kenya in October and then play three Tests against the hosts in November during a 66-day tour.Skipper Saurav Ganguly is out of form, having scored just one half-century in his last 16 Test innings. Injuries to young left-arm fast bowlers Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra have made his task more difficult on his toughest overseas assignment since taking over as captain from Sachin Tendulkar last year.Besides himself, he has just two batsmen, Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, who have experience of playing on the fast, bouncy South Africa pitches. "The Indian captain is neither in form nor completely fit. So how is he going to lead by example?" former skipper Bishan Bedi told AFP."It is going to be a very, very tough tour for India. It struggled against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. I don't know what it will do against a strong South African steam."India drew a two-Test series 1-1 against Zimbabwe and then suffered a 2-1 defeat in Sri Lanka on its last two tours. Bedi said the lack of fitness was the main reason for India's dismal overseas record in recent months."Fitness level of this team has to go up manifold. The game is all about fitness. Look at the Australians, how fit they are. In contrast, the BCCI conducted the fitness tests in a haphazard manner on Saturday and Sunday. I don't know how many will break down on the tour. I have not seen so many injuries in the Indian team before."Six Indians Tendulkar, Khan, Nehra, Anil Kumble, Venkat Sai Laxman and Javagal Srinath were unavailable due to injuries in recent months. The scene is no different this time as, apart from the fast bowlers, top middle-order batsman Laxman has also had to pull out of the tri-series because he is yet to recover from a knee surgery.A big consolation for Ganguly, however, is the return of Tendulkar and leg spinner Kumble. He has also the best available spin attack, with off spinner Harbhajan Singh eagerly looking forward to bowling with Kumble.India is expected to qualify for the triangular series final, as Kenya is considered the weakest of the three teams. But the real test will begin when they play three Tests with the hosts.No Indian team has so far returned triumphant from South Africa, with Mohammad Azharuddin's team failing in 1992-93 and Tendulkar's men meeting with the same fate four seasons later.India has yet to win a Test in South Africa, let alone a series. It lost one and drew three matches under Azharuddin and then lost two and drew one under Tendulkar.It fared no better in One-dayers either, winning just two of the 12 matches.Bedi said he expected no miracles from India this time. "Miracles do not happen every day," he said. "It happened when India beat Australia at home early this year. I hope for the best, but am prepared for the worst."