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WC 2003 - Columns - Indians have the ability to fight fire with fire

Published: Thursday, March 6, 2003, 0:18 [IST]
 
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The confidence and team spirit that is evident in the Indian team has grown out of the belief that they (Indians) can fight fire with fire under any conditions.

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No longer do they require pitches to be suitable for the spinners before they can hope to upset the top teams on foreign soil. Possibly for the first time in history, India has a pace attack that can match with any going around for pace and versatility. I believe the combination of batting and bowling depth, allied with new found agility in the field and the spirit evident in this Indian squad, will carry it to victory over New Zealand on Friday. A win will cement them (Indians) into the first or second position on the table going into the semi-finals and should set them up for the much-awaited rematch with the title-holders. I cannot wait! New Zealand will be shattered by its loss to Australia. Having asked Australia to bat first on a slow wicket containing moisture, and then reducing the champions to 84 for 7, it should have won.The lack of a potent pace partner to help Shane Bond finish the lower order proved to be the downfall of Stephen Fleming and his men.

Stephen Fleming made all the right moves.He had to have Bond bowl out his overs because he could have finished the Australians off. Likewise he had to keep Daniel Vettori going at the other end as he was helping Bond to build the pressure. There was little else he could have done.This is the worrying thing for New Zealand for the upcoming match with India. It is a must-win game for it and the pressure will be immense.Apart from Bond and Vettori, the rest of the New Zealand attack lacked control and ideas.

Andre Adams has bowled well under similar conditions, but he made little impact here apart from a doodle-bug that hit Bichel a solid blow to the head.Chris Harris was his usual frugal self. The slow wicket is his preferred surface so he must have felt at home, but he could not make a break through for his captain either.Fleming shuffled the deck chairs though it was all to no avail. He will want to find a better balance in his attack for the match with India or he may find that he and his charges will be chasing a much larger total at Centurion Park on Friday. In many ways, Bond's good form, and the fact he was the only bowler taking wickets, worked against the New Zealand captain on this occasion.

He will need to get wickets at both ends if he is to stop the rampant Tendulkar and co.On the other hand, Saurav Ganguly is enjoying a rare embarrassment of riches. His pace attack is really starting to come together. India has never had such a potent three-pronged pace attack before. Javagal Srinath is the elder statesman and is confirming what we have recognised for quite some time. He is an excellent bowler who combines good pace with intelligent strategy.

Ganguly will be thankful to have him back because he is the ingredient that has been missing in recent times. No doubt the captain will hope that this series may inspire the good-natured paceman to extend his career. Srinath has never had such support in the pace bowling ranks before. Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra are growing in stature every day.The two left-handers have combined well with Srinath, offering variation to his incisive away swing to the right-handed batsmen. Khan is not as quick as Nehra, but he does hit the bat hard as well as bowling a probing line andlength.

Allied to the left-handers' angle this variation in the new ball attack has worked well for India. Nehra is the rising star. He is set to take over from Srinath as the leader of the attack for the next generation, much like Srinath took over from the redoubtable Kapil Dev in 1994. The baton is in good hands. The young man showed in his demolition of Pakistan that he has pace and he has the ability to swing the ball back into the right-handed batsman. This is a proven winning formula. History will show that bowlers with this one-two combination can fight in the heavyweight division and take their share of the spoils. I will watch his continuing development with interest.

There is no doubt that Tendulkar and the Indian batting line-up has a big part to play in the remainder of the World Cup. They will need to set targets and chase targets against some quality bowling, but it will be the bowling attack that will be responsible if India is to take the Cup away from the Australians. PTI

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