India wants to get all equations right

Published: Thursday, November 22, 2001, 21:41 [IST]
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Centurion Park (South Africa): Even as uncertainty loomed large over its continuance in the series, the Indian team was desperately trying to get its equations right this time in case it has to play the third and final Test against South Africa starting at Centurion Park on Friday.India had gone into the first two Tests without any match practice as rains washed out the lead-up games on both the occasions. And now on the eve of the third Test, it has the harsh punishments on six of its players, including skipper Saurav Ganguly and star batsman Sachin Tendulkar, weighing down its minds. With the Indian Board still to take a decision on whether to continue with the tour following the rejection of its demand for the removal of match-referee Mike Denness by International Cricket Council (ICC), the Indian team was trying to concentrate on the task ahead. And the foremost thing on their minds was to get the right balance in the team in congruence with conditions, something, which the Indians lacked in both the earlier Tests and repented later. Once again the issue that is giving maximum headaches to the Indian think tank is whether or not to play both the spin bowlers in its armoury. India had left out off spinner Harbhajan Singh in the first Test and played leg spinner Anil Kumble, who took three wickets in the first innings and the only one to fall in the second. But with the two left-arm seamers Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra not performing up to expectations, there was criticism over the decision to leave out Harbhajan who remains a mystery to the South Africans. In the second Test, after several brainstorming sessions, the Indians decided to play both their spinners with Ganguly saying Harbhajan and Kumble were India's best bowlers and he could not have afforded to leave out either. But that decision came in for much flak since the pitch at Port Elizabeth was perfect for seam bowlers which was fully used by Javagal Srinath who claimed a match- haul of eight wickets while Harbhajan and Kumble could manage only four between them. Coach John Wright had later admitted that it was probably a mistake not to include a third seamer in the side for the second Test. The wicket at Centurion Park being the fastest in South Africa, the Indians are all set to leave out one of their spinners and by all indications it seems, it would be Kumble who would sit out this time. Kumble may have been half the reason why India could save the follow on, but he really struggled with the ball in the second Test managing just one wicket. His inability to turn the ball substantially may become Kumble's nemesis and he might miss his first Test, either at home or abroad, due to reasons other than injury.
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