Sombre-looking Indians arrive in Zim for third match

Published: Monday, February 17, 2003, 4:54 [IST]
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Harare: With its ego badly bruised after the first two matches, a sombre-looking Indian cricket team arrived in strife-torn Zimbabwe on Sunday, hoping to turn around its sagging fortunes in its next World Cup league match against the hosts on Wednesday. As the players quietly walked out of the airport, trying their best to look normal, Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly dropped a line about how his continued failure with the bat did not mean that he was short on confidence. "When you are out of form you sometimes appear lacking in confidence.

It surely is not the case with me," said the captain who is under attack for his string of low scores in the last couple of months. There was no media session at the airport and the players drove straight to their hotel, to "introspect" on their performances as their captain said they needed to do. India received a nine-wicket thrashing from defending champions Australia in its second league match on Saturday after yet another disgraceful performance had seen it being bundled out for its lowest-ever World Cup score of 125.

Even in their first match against Holland, which they won, the Indians struggled to reach a modest score of 204 and were bowled out inside their quota of overs by a mediocre attack. A convincing and comprehensive victory against Zimbabwe is what the Indians desperately need in their next match but their previous record at this venue will hardly comfort them. They have lost two of their three Tests at the Harare Sports Ground besides a One- dayer in 1998. During their previous tour to this country in 2001, Indians had reached the finals of a tri-nation series where they were beaten by West Indies.

While India requires to win at least three of its four remaining matches, Zimbabwe is comfortably placed, aware that a win in Wednesday's match would almost certainly earn it a place in the Super Six. The Indians decided to spend their day in the confines of the hotel and did not go to the ground to have a look at the pitch. But initial reports suggested the pitch had been prepared with the aim of helping the Zimbabwean fast bowlers. Zimbabwe has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons due to England's perceived security threats and the people here are hoping for a keenly contested match against India on Wednesday.

Security concerns are the last worry of the Indians who must be totally occupied by their embarrassing performances in the two matches. Minister of Education and Sports Aeneas Chigwedere, who received the Indians at the airport, assured the Indians about their safety and asked them to go out and enjoy themselves. "It is a peaceful country and don't you believe what you read in the press in the outside world," assured the minister. "We would ensure you have a fine stay in Zimbabwe."

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