Can Ind break jinx of losing in final?

Published: Friday, October 26, 2001, 0:23 [IST]
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Durban: Will they be ninth time lucky - that is the question confronting the Indians as they go into the final of the triangular One-day series in Durban on Friday against hosts South Africa.India has, the last eight final matches it has featured in, a dubious record indeed. That jinx has returned to haunt the Indians as they seek to do away with the tag of chokers in Friday's match. Their road to the final has been one of ups and downs, though the win that actually got them into the final was pretty emphatic - a 186 run routing of Kenya in the last league match on Wednesday at Paarl. But more than its form and performance, it would be its nerves and the ability to leave the past behind that would really be the key to India's fate in Friday's game. Ganguly reflected the mood of his team when he said it was in a position to win all the three games against South Africa in the league stage of the tournament. "In all the three games against South Africa, we were in a position to win. We beat them at centurion and then in the other two matches at Wanderers and East London, we were in a position we could have won," said Ganguly. Almost all the vital players have looked in excellent touch in this tournament. Even though they had a 50-50 record in the six league matches, the Indians stood out for their individual brilliance. And now, more than ever before, they need to click as a unit. India needs to strike out a balance in its team. It has been trying too many things in this tournament, not with too much success. The idea of asking Rahul Dravid to keep wickets while keeping out the regular wicket-keeper so that an extra specialist batsman can be included is very strange. It proved to be harmless against Kenya but the same move can backfire severely and prove suicidal against a top-class side like South Africa. Wicket-keeping is a specialist job it is better that specialists do it. Hopefully, rookie stumper Deep Dasgupta would once again find himself behind the stumps on Friday, even if that means a few runs less to the Indian total. Dravid had a mixed game against Kenya on Wednesday when he effected two stumpings and a run-out but was also guilty of conceding 11 byes. His keeping, particularly against his state mate Anil Kumble, was not up to the scratch. Though Ganguly didn't commit himself on the continuation of Dravid as a wicket- keeper in the final, it is more or less certain Dravid would be providing the dual role on Friday. As it is, even with the inclusion of the wicket-keeper, the Indian batting order is a formidable one. It defies logic why a batting order boasting the likes of Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V V S Laxman - and now Virender Sehwag - needs extra cushioning. Ganguly and Tendulkar are in top form, having scored two hundreds each and raised three century partnerships in the tournament so far. They are fresh from a world record opening wicket stand of 258 against Kenya on Wednesday. They would be required to play something similar on Friday if India hopes to score a big total. India has limited choices in the bowling department with Javagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh almost certain to play. A lot would depend on the initial overs by the medium-pacers. If they can keep a check on the scoring rate and also take one or two wickets, it would be an ideal scenario for Kumble and Harbhajan to weave their magic. To a very large extent, Sehwag has solved Ganguly's concerns of a fifth bowler and he again would have a crucial role to perform with the ball on Friday. There is no dearth of talent in the Indian side but, as said earlier, they need to click as a team against a formidable opposition like the South Africans who are enjoying a nice time in international cricket. The hosts are an extremely formidable side with quite a few cricketers able to perform the dual role with the bat and ball. Except for one loss against India, the South Africans have had a smooth ride to the final and clearly have been the best of the three teams on display. "Our intensity has picked up quite a bit," said Pollock. "It's a big occasion and there is a motivation to do well." South Africa had appeared in irresistible form in its last league game of the series against Kenya at Newlands where it amassed 354 for three on way to a record 208-run win. Pollock was banking on his rediscovered fast bowler Mornantau Hayward who bowled with genuine speed against the Kenyans. "He bowled with good control and good speed against Kenyans. He is an important part of our set-up. It is something we need." Extras:
India beats Kenya, cruises through to final
Ganguly praises Dravid for his wicket-keeping
'Earlier loss to Kenya was eye opener'

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