Confused India set to push Sachin, Saurav down the order

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Harare: Beleaguered India is once again planning to drop star batsman Sachin Tendulkar down the order for Wednesday's crunch game against Zimbabwe in a bid to resurrect its World Cup campaign. Saurav Ganguly's team need a win to stay in contention for a place in the Super Six, and the desperate situation is beginning to create confusion and uncertainty in the ranks. Tendulkar, One-day cricket's leading batsman who was shuffled up and down the order over the last 12 months to create the ideal balance, once again finds himself facing a change. Demoted last year as opener, where he has scored all but one of his record 33 One- day centuries, Tendulkar was given back his opening berth for the World Cup and responded with top scores of 52 and 36 in the first two games. But with the rest of the batting falling apart - India failed to last 50 overs against the Netherlands and was shot out for 125 by Australia - team sources told a reshuffle was once again being considered. Tendulkar could drop down to number four while Ganguly, who has scored just 75 runs in his last nine innings, could also abandon his opening slot to bat at number five, the sources said. It appears certain that hard-hitting batsman Virender Sehwag will open the innings, probably with Dinesh Mongia, with Rahul Dravid expected to take the number three slot. "It's all a bit uncertain at the moment. The think-tank is working hard to find the right combination," the sources said. Ganguly, who admitted after Saturday's defeat against Australia that he had no clue how to revive the team, would not comment on the proposed reshuffle. "What needs to be done in the team's interest will be done," he told reporters. There is, however, no move yet to play all-rounder Sanjay Bangar in place of Mohammed Kaif, the hero of India's NatWest final victory over England last year, but who in the last 15 innings has a best of 31. India will name its playing 11 just before the toss on Wednesday, the only change being considered is Ajit Agarkar coming in place of one of the spinners if the wicket at the Harare Sports Club favours seam bowling. India can ill-afford another poor display against Zimbabwe, which beat it at the last World Cup when Henry Olonga took three wickets in the final over to fashion a dramatic three-run victory. Left-hander Andy Flower alone is enough nightmare to the Indians. The 34-year-old loves India's bowlers against whom he averages a phenomenal 94.93 in Test matches and 41.16 in One-day internationals. When India last played Zimbabwe at the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka in September, Flower hit a superb 145 before Ganguly's team won by 14 runs. Heath Streak's home team thrashed newcomers Namibia in it first World Cup match before earning four bonus points when England decided to forfeit its game for security reasons. Zimbabwe is now well-placed to join Australia in the Super Six from Group 'A', leaving India, Pakistan and England to battle for the third spot. India has won six of the seven World Cup matches against Zimbabwe, but Wednesday's game could change the trend if the Indian batting continues to falter.

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