WC 2003 - Ganguly more than keen to settle score with the Kiwis

Published: Thursday, October 17, 2002, 0:00 [IST]
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Johannesburg: Skipper Saurav Ganguly is restless and raring to settle a bitter score against Stephen Fleming and his men when India takes on New Zealand in a grudge match of the World Cup Super Sixes on Friday. "I am looking forward to the game. I have been waiting for this match for quite some time now," said Ganguly, pumped-up by India's stupendous 183-win against Sri Lanka in its second Super Six match on Monday."There are a few points to prove," Ganguly said making his intentions clear that the team was keen to avenge its defeats at the hands of New Zealand on its tour in December-January preceding the World Cup. Skipper Fleming was at the forefront in plotting India's debacle on the tour, thrashing it 2-0 in the Tests and 5-2 in the One-dayers as well.New Zealand prospered on some tailor-made wickets in home conditions where toss was often the difference between victory and defeat. But Fleming rubbed it on Ganguly's pride by making sneering remarks about his team and the batting line-up."If they are the best batsmen in the world they should prove it on any surface... it is just not good flashing your records all the time," Fleming had said. If that was not stinging enough, Fleming made an even more acidic statement which put the Indians on a boil."I don't want India to go down to the World Cup with a happy feeling," Fleming said. "If the opposition is down you must keep them there."The two teams have finally come face to face after a taxing, long-winding route to the final Super Six clash on Friday and India, on the strength of its convincing show, will try to do its best to put New Zealand in a spot whichwould only point it to the exit door.As things stand now, India, already into the semi-finals, will go all out to beat New Zealand to allow it no better than a fourth spot in the Super Six stage and pit it against mighty Australians in the semi-finals, and possibly inelimination mode.New Zealand qualified for the Super Sixes the hard way after forfeiting four points by refusing to travel to Nairobi.It was then apparently down and out after losing its opening match to Sri Lanka, misreading the pitch and omitting its left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori. Victories over West Indies and South Africa allowed New Zealand to claw its way back into the tournament and wins over Bangladesh and Canada followed. Still it had to sweat on the result of the tied Sri Lanka-South Africa match before taking third place in Group B and making it to the Super Sixes. En route there was the distraction of a nightclub scuffle in Durban, which resulted in fines for Chris Cairns and Brendon McCullum. But Ganguly knows the folly of taking New Zealand lightly.New Zealand, like India, is never stronger than when pushed into a corner.Ganguly would do well to pay heed to Steve Waugh's comments that New Zealanders relish the role of underdogs.New Zealand touted itself as no-good against the Australians during the 1999 World Cup and then thrashed them the next day in a group game. Adversity draws the Kiwis, famous for their collective spirit, even closer. New Zealand has a team of versatile cricketers who field like demons and regularly swap the batting order to unsettle the rivals.But the Kiwis might have done themselves a disservice by preparing tailor-made wickets at home and then suddenly discover in this World Cup that their phantom bowlers are no good in these batsmen-friendly conditions. Darryl Tuffey and Jacob Oram were unplayable not because of their line and length against Indians at home but because the sideways movement which the pitches generated. Confronted with batting tracks here, the duo have gone for a lot of runs, including a 300-plus score to South Africa and then the ultimate humiliation of being thrashed for 52 runs in a mere three overs against chirpy Zimbabweans the other day.Indian coach John Wright was pinpoint accurate with his assessment when he said the designer pitches in New Zealand would not help their campaign either."That's the whole point. Those pitches were not going to help anyone. Neither New Zealand nor India in their preparation for the World Cup," said Wright, a former New Zealand player.Now New Zealand finds itself up against a batting line-up which is led by the irrepressible Sachin Tendulkar who is threatening to make this World Cup all his own.Also joining in the Indian party are Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh whose big-hitting is beginning to finish off teams in quick succession.It could be the turn of Shane Bond and his support staff now when the clash takes place on Friday. PTI

New Zealand has been as strong as any team: Lehmann

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