England tour of India - Cricket: Pressure on India to break off shackles

Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2002, 23:53 [IST]
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Kolkata; Branded as chokers for invariably failing to deliver the goods in crunch games, Indian captain Saurav Ganguly and his men's ability to handle pressure in tight situations will be put to test during the six-match Limited Overs series against England beginning at the Eden Gardens on Saturday.The Indians have been succumbing tamely in summit showdowns for long and the hosts appear more determined to salvage their honour in what promises to be a classic contest of nerves and skills.Haunted by the sequence of nine consecutive defeats in One-day finals, Saurav's men will be heavily banking on home advantage to script a revival in their fortunes against a relatively young England team, which has the capability of springing a surprise on any fancied team.But the home side, which has the inherent capacity of taking its game to a sublime level and collapsing like a pack of cards in the very next moment, has to maintain a high level of consistency right through the series to put pressure on its opponents.The consistency factor could play a big role in determining which team clinches the title and the Indians under their first foreign coach John Wright have begun working on this aspect. Captain Ganguly's leadership qualities as well as his current batting form will also come under the scanner and it was high time that the 'Prince of Kolkata' silenced his growing number of critics by allowing his bat to speak.The elegant left-hander, woefully short of runs for much too long, will have to shrug off the increasing pressure and continue to play his natural game, which has brought him plenty of runs in One-dayers during the last few years.The Indian skipper could not ask for a better venue than the historic Eden Gardens to return to form in front of a packed-to-capacity home ground. Despite the fact that Ganguly's record at his home ground has hardly been inspiring, the skipper has already expressed his determination to lead from the front.Clearly, the Indians have been far more formidable in their own den where the tracks favour the batsmen and should capitalise on the psychological advantage of playing at home.The Englishmen were more than aware of India's vulnerability in pressure situations as captain Nasser Hussain, who commands a lot of respect from his teammates, harped on the point on the very first day of his arrival. Though it remains to be seen whether Hussain and his teammates would be able to put sufficient pressure on the hosts, the visitors will leave no stone unturned to return home with their heads high. England too has not been consistent in the shorter version of the game but the convincing 5-0 win against Zimbabwe in the last series would serve as a morale-booster for the rather inexperienced side. The Indians, however, will badly miss the services of dependable batsman Rahul Dravid who is currently undergoing a rehabilitation programme for his injured shoulder in Johannesburg.With the middle order looking quite brittle with a host of young players joining the team, Dravid could have given solidity to the batting by playing the role of the sheet anchor.Indiashopes of amassing a big total would no doubt rest on batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, who is capable of tearing to shred any bowling attack on his day. The star batsman, who seems to have curbed his natural attacking instincts to some extent in recent times, will have to give a rollicking start along with Ganguly to provide the momentum to the innings. The Tendulkar-Ganguly opening pair is currently the best in the world as far as the record in the limited version of the game is concerned.Despite the presence of the hard-hitting Virender Sehwag, the Indian middle order does not look very dependable with none of the batsmen having shown the desired consistency in recent past.The teams: India (from): Saurav Ganguly (captain), SachinTendulkar, Venkat Sai Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Hemang Badani, DineshMongia, Anil Kumble, Ajay Ratra, Harbhajan Singh, Sarandeep Singh,Javagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan and Sanjay Bangar.England (from): Nasser Hussain (captain), Andrew Caddick, PaulCollingwood, Andrew Flintoff, James Foster, Ashley Giles, Darren Gough, Matthew Hoggard, Ben Hollioake, Nick Knight, Owais Shah, Jeremy Snape, Graham Thorpe, Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan.Umpires: S K Sharma (India) and K Hariharan (India)Match-referee: Dennis Lindsay (South Africa)PTI

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