Opening slot continues to be a bother for India

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2002, 17:23 [IST]
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Georgetown: India prepares for next week's opening Test against the West Indies with a prayer on its lips, hoping to find a reliable opening pair in a warm-up game here on Friday. Shiv Sunder Das is the only established opener in the squad, but does not know who his partner will be in the first Test starting at Bourda here on April 11. "We have not decided who the openers will be in the practice game," said Indian coach John Wright on the eve of his team's three-day match against Guyana Board President's XI at the Everest ground. India look to either make-shift opener Deep Dasgupta or Wasim Jaffer to provide a solution to its problem on the two-month tour, featuring five Tests and as many One- day Internationals.

Dasgupta began his Test career against South Africa last year as a middle-order batsman before being asked to open the innings, while Jaffer returned from wilderness after more than a year. Jaffer scored just 46 in his two Tests against Hansie Cronje's South Africans at home in 2000 before being dumped. He is the only specialist opener besides Das in the team, having got the selectors' nod after scoring heavily in domestic tournaments this season. Dasgupta is a part-timer rather than a regular at the top of the order. He was initially included as a wicket-keeper, but managed to retain his place as a batsman. It is more than just a warm-up game for the Indians in that it provides the only opportunity to them to find the right combination before the real battle begins. And opening an innings is turning out to be a major worry for the tourists who are still undecided whether to try out Jaffer or persist with Dasgupta and leave out Ajay Ratra, a better wicket-keeper. Dasgupta has batted well within his limitations for 344 runs in seven Tests, including a century against England at home last year.

His keeping, however, has left a lot to be desired, especially against spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. "We have yet to decide on the opening and wicket-keeping slots, but will surely play with two spinners," said Wright. There were no such problems for Guyanese manager Ivor Mendonca, who said he was hopeful of an impressive performance from his squad, comprising many youngsters. The first-choice Guyanese team is busy playing the Busta International Shield against Jamaica in Kingston. "We have some promising youngsters in the team capable of doing well, especially Rayon Griffith who is really quick," said Mendonca, a former wicket-keeper-batsman who played two Tests against India in 1961-62 at home.

Guyana Board President's XI (from): Travis Dowlin (captain), Andrew Gonsalves, Krishna Arjune, Narsingh Deonarine, Homchan Pooran, Vishal Arjune, Damodar Dasrath, Vishal Nagamootoo, Hemnarine Harinarin, Kevin Bazil, Esau Crandon, Rayon Griffith and Rayon Thomas.

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