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England tour of India - Cricket: India to rely on three pronged spin attack

Published: Saturday, December 22, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Mohali: All the battering that they received in South Africa and the controversy that almost threatened to split world cricket are likely to be forgotten as the Indian team returns to its familiar turf to take on a not-so-formidable England in the first of the three-match Test series starting in Mohali on Monday.The series that was twice on the brink of being called off first when England expressed concerns over the security situation in the region following US military strikes in Afghanistan and again when International Cricket Council (ICC) threatened to derecognise the matches if its directive on the non-inclusion of Virender Sehwag in the Indian team was not complied with is an opportunity for the Indians to redeem some self-pride after a disastrous tour of South Africa.The Indians are known to be tigers on their home soil, a reputation that was enhanced many times over when they defeated world-beating Australia in a thrilling series earlier in 2001.English captain Nasser Hussain only echoed the feelings of his Australian counterpart Steve Waugh, whose team stumbled at the the last frontier, when he described a Test series in India as "the toughest tour". "India at home, make no mistake, that is the toughest tour," Hussain had said a few days after embarking on the tour of India. The Chennai born Hussain was hardly reading anything into India's spineless performance in South Africa. "India in South Africa is completely different. But India at home, as the Australians told us this summer (during the Ashes series), is magnificent." And even though India have a completely new look and inexperienced fast bowling line-up, they start as favourites in the series, a fact which Hussain agrees to.In an unusual vote of no-confidence, the national selectors dropped all the five fast bowlers who played in the Test series against South Africa although two of the more experienced ones Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad had injuries as alibis.The decision to induct three new faces Sanjay Bangar of Railways, Iqbal Siddiqui of Maharashtra and Tinu Yohannan of Kerala may have angered skipper Saurav Ganguly but it is no doubt a daring move towards preparing young talents for the 2003 World Cup.However, it will be spin, which will rule the roost in Indian team strategy in this series. Leg spinner Anil Kumble and off spinner Harbhajan Singh have some points to make after their indifferent show in South Africa. The spin department has been strengthened with the inclusion of Sharandeep Singh in the team. In all probability the three will bowl in tandem in the first Test in Mohali. The selectors left the batting untouched and despite their poor show in South Africa it looks a formidable line-up on the home turf. Connor Williams has been given another chance, being preferred over Sadagopan Ramesh and Hemang Badani, both of whom had submitted their fitness certificates, and now it is for the Baroda left-hander to make the maximum use of this opportunity.The man who remained the centre of attraction for close to two weeks, Virender Sehwag, has finally been left out in compliance with ICC directive asking him to undergo the one-Test ban imposed on him by match-referee Mike Denness in South Africa. Though Jacob Martin has taken his place in the squad, it was not very clear whether he will play in the match on Monday or not. Master batsman Sachin Tendulkar and vice-captain Rahul Dravid had one good score each in the series against South Africa but their performance was far below the expectations and they would certainly need to do a lot better in Mohali. As would captain Saurav Ganguly, who once again struggled against the short-pitched bowling in the Test series after tackling that wonderfully well in the One-dayers against South Africa.Hussain had accepted that England would be underdogs going into this series but the fact that they come to India after defeating Pakistan and Sri Lanka on similar sub-continental wickets last year cannot be ignored. The team showed its fighting instincts in the three-day tour match against India 'A' at Jaipur when they carved out a comfortable three-wicket win after conceding a first innings lead.Hussain himself has looked in good touch, top-scoring for his side in both the innings at Jaipur, while Mark Ramprakash is still fresh from the century he scored against Board President's XI in the first three-day game in Mumbai.The pitch in Mohali has a fair share of green over it, which pleased the Englishmen a lot when they came for net practice on Saturday evening. Craig White and Richard Johnson had shown deadly form in Jaipur where the conditions were good for fast bowling and England expect them to exploit the conditions in Mohali too.This is the fourth Test at this ground and the first after India played a draw with New Zealand in 1999. The Teams (from): India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Shiv Sunder Das, Connor Williams, Rahul Dravid, V V S Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Deep Dasgupta, Jacob Martin, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Sharandeep Singh, Tinu Yohannan, Sanjay Bangar and Iqbal Siddiqui. England: Nasser Hussain (captain), Usman Afazal, Martyn Ball, Mark Butcher, Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Graham Thorpe, Mark Ramprakash, Richard Dawson, James Foster, Ashley Giles, Warren Hegg, Richard Johnson, Matthew Hoggard, James Ormand, Craig White and Andrew Flintoff. PTI

Extras:
Dalmiya had no cards left to play, says Times
Martin replaces Sehwag for 1st Test
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