India, West Indies strive to shrug losers~~ tag

Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2002, 16:58 [IST]
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Georgetown (Guyana): The first Test starting at Bourda on Thursday will pit the travel-weary Indian tourists against a West Indian team wallowing in an unaccustomed slump in form. India is formidable at home and fragile abroad, having failed to win a Test series outside the sub-continent since 1986 when it beat England under Kapil Dev's captaincy. The West Indies has also been shedding its prowess of late and is without a win in its past five Tests. It was blanked 0-3 in Sri Lanka and then 0-2 by Pakistan at Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. West Indies skipper Carl Hooper said he did not believe India's dismal away record would give his team an advantage. "We're not at a stage where we can take any series easy. We've also struggled overseas. We can't afford to be complacent playing at home. Each match of a Test series is important for us. All we want is that the West Indies does well," Hooper said. The presence of a batting genius in each side - Brian Lara for the West Indies and Sachin Tendulkar for India - has not been enough to improve the teams' away Test records. The left-handed Lara made 688 in Sri Lanka to become the second-highest scorer in a three-Test series after Englishman Graham Gooch's 752 against India in 1990, but could not prevent his team from losing the series. He missed his team's next Test series against Pakistan due to an elbow injury, sustained in a One-day International in Sri Lanka. Hooper said Lara's return to the squad augured well as the West Indies look to put pressure on India by piling up a big total. "It's great to have Lara back in the team. He's the key batsman," he said. India's problems begin when it steps away from home where spinner-friendly pitches and crowd support spurs it on to do the unexpected, like a 2-1 win over Steve Waugh's Australians last year. When denied such luxuries abroad, India just fails to deliver despite having one of the best batsmen in Tendulkar. "Tendulkar is a world-class player. He's going to have his days, but we have to see he doesn't score many," Hooper said. Indian preparations for the Test received a blow on Sunday when its top off spinner Harbhajan Singh injured his shoulder while throwing from the deep in a three-day fixture. Fellow-spinner Sharandeep Singh has joined the squad in case Harbhajan is ruled out of the Test. "The final decision on Harbhajan will be taken after a fitness test before the match," Indian manager Gautam Dasgupta said. The West Indies is planning to counter the Indian batting with pace, having included four fast bowlers in their team. But pace, the trump card of West Indian teams in the past, has also lost much of its threat after the retirements of Curtly Ambrose in 2000 and Courtney Walsh last year. "We've picked four fast bowlers and one spinner, but will assess the conditions before deciding whether to play with four or three pacemen," Hooper said. The teams (from): West Indies: Carl Hooper (captain), Chris Gayle, Stuart Williams, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ryan Hinds, Junior Murray, Mervyn Dillon, Cameron Cuffy, Marlon Black, Adam Sanford and Mahendra Nagamootoo. India (from): Saurav Ganguly (captain), Shiv Sunder Das, Deep Dasgupta, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Dinesh Mongia, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Sanjay Bangar, Ajay Ratra, Tinu Yohannan, Ashish Nehra, Wasim Jaffar and Sharandeep Singh. Umpires: Asoka de Silva (Sri Lanka) and Daryl Harper (Australia). Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).

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