~~India needs quality all-rounder, batsman-keeper~~

Published: Sunday, October 21, 2001, 2:01 [IST]
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East London (South Africa): Bogged down by fluctuating fortunes and by-now familiar middle-order collapses, skipper Saurav Ganguly on Saturday said the key to India getting anywhere close to the best One-day side lay in a genuine all-rounder and a good batsman-wicket-keeper.

"An all rounder and a good batsman-wicket-keeper are what we need," said Ganguly reflecting on his side's 46-run defeat against South Africa in a tri-series One-day match on Saturday. This means a huge gap to fill for Yuvraj Singh and Deep Dasgupta on whom the Indian selectors have pinned hope on the challenging tour to South Africa. Yuvraj Singh is blessed with exceptional talent but Dasgupta is a bold experiment in the batsman-wicket-keeper category since his highest One-day score in first class cricket remains only 25 runs. Ganguly did not want to be harsh on his young 'keeper but couldn't help reflect on the balance the top sides in the world acquire with a dash of an Adam Gilchrist or a Mark Boucher or a Rashid Khan. "These three sides, that is Australia, South Africa and Pakistan, are also blessed with good quality all-rounder's and that's why they remain the top sides of the world," Ganguly said. "Unless and until, you fill these two gaps sufficiently well, your performance will keep going up and down," said Ganguly. Ganguly though is hopeful the investment on Yuvraj and Dasgupta would prove worthwhile in days to come. The one thing common about Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag is that their one good performance is followed by long stretches of failures. Yuvraj Singh's four innings in this series has yielded 59 runs, Sehwag's four knocks have produced 97 and these scores have been built around their one good knock of 42 and 55 not out respectively. Coach John Wright said the youngsters are hugely talented but perhaps lack the art of building an innings. "When the chase is on, they can big shots but when they have more overs to play, they must learn to be flexible," said Wright. "They should be able to adapt their games suitably, tapping the ball into the gaps so that the rival team is forced to bring one of the five fielders outside the ring inside and when the field is in, to blast out their big shots," said Wright. "When Ganguly or Tendulkar or Dravid fail, it is the right time for youngsters to put up their hands and come forward and deliver," he said. This was an area in which Robin Singh was an ideal presence in the Indian side before the selectors decided to discard him in favour of youngsters with a view to build the team for the 2003 World Cup. As far as all-rounder's go, Australia is well served by Ian Harvey and Andrew Symonds,Pakistan has Wasim Akram, Abdur Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood while South Africa has men like Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener. Thankfully, in the midst of all chaos, the Indian captain himself is in the pink of batting health on this tour and has so far hit 13 sixes - all against pacemen - and is the leading scorer of the tournament with 260 runs from his four innings and five matches. His strike rate is 93.09 runs per 100 balls. Compared to Ganguly, Tendulkar has 179 from four innings at a strike rate of 70-run per 100 balls. The best for South Africa is 162 from Gary Kirsten from three innings. Twice in this series Tendulkar and Ganguly have put the home bowling on the racks - 193 at Wanderers and 101 here - and on both occasions rest of the batsmen caved in. As Ganguly pointed out, the team has also failed to last the full quota of 50 overs in three out of the five games putting an awesome burden on the openers and Rahul Dravid. Clearly, youngsters are not pulling their weight adequately. Now with stylish middle- order bat V V S Laxman expected to join the team before virtually the semi-final match against Kenya at Paarl on October 24, it seems the team could do with a little thinking on the wicket-keeping and all-rounder departments. Though the Indians are not losing sleep over it, they are also pretty much focused on the match against Kenya. And Wright reminded firmly as the team prepared to take an afternoon flight to Cape Town for its final league engagement, "If you don't win, you don't deserve to be in the final." Extras:
Full scorecard of match 7
India in South Africa full schedule

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