Castries (St Lucia): India skipper Saurav Ganguly said on Thursday he expected an improved performance from his openers and lower-order batsmen in the remaining three Tests against the West Indies. India leads the five-Test series 1-0 following its memorable 37-run victory over the hosts in the second match at Port-of-Spain in Trinidad on Tuesday.
The opening Test at Georgetown in Guyana was drawn. This was only India's third win in 35 Tests in the Caribbean, the previous two also coming at the same venue in 1971 and 1976. "Its a bit worrying that the lower-order batsmen haven't contributed in the second Test," said Ganguly, one of the six players India has rested for a three-day game against Busta XI starting here on Friday. The others are middle-order batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, as well as fast bowlers Javagal Srinath, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan. "(Venkatsai) Laxman will lead the team," Ganguly said, adding he hoped the lower- order batsmen and openers would be able to contribute in the only warm-up game before the third Test, beginning at Bridgetown in Barbados on May India's batting problems began with the cheap dismissals of their wicket-keeper in both the Tests as none of the lower-order batsmen could cope with the West Indian pace attack.
India tried both of their wicket-keepers, with Deep Dasgupta scoring nought in the opening Test and Ajay Ratra falling for duck and two in the second. The tourists lost their last six wickets for 63 runs in the first innings of the Port-of-Spain Test and as many for a meagre 13 in the second. "Its a good opportunity for them (tail-enders) to get some runs," said the Indian captain. "The lower-order batsmen did well in the first Test. I hope they bat better in Barbados." The Indian runs have come only from the middle, with Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly looking in good form.
Dravid and Tendulkar already have a Test hundred to their credit, while Laxman has slammed three successive half-centuries. Ganguly's return to form with an unbeaten 75 in the second innings of the second Test augurs well for India, whose top and lower-order batsmen have done little of note. Opening the innings is turning out to be a big problem of India, which has tried different pairs in the first two Tests.
Shiv Das opened the innings with Dasgupta in the first Test and with Sanjay Bangar in the second, but India's search for a right combination continues. "Bangar and (Wasim) Jaffer might open in the practice game, with Shiv Das coming at number three. They've scored runs in India. Let's see us how they perform against the Busta team which has a decent attack," Ganguly said.
Wicket-keeper Ridley Jacob leads the Busta team, which has five players with international experience. Jacobs gets an opportunity to regain his Test place following the batting failures of Junior Murray, who has scored just one in three innings against the Indians. Darren Ganga, Wavell Hinds, Dinanath Ramnarine and Ryan Hinds are the others keen to do well in the practice game in order to stage a comeback into the West Indies Test squad for the last three matches.