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Published: Monday, October 27, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
Colombo: India faces New Zealand in its opening match of the triangular series on Friday handicapped by the absence of star batsman Sachin Tendulkar and unsure of who will replace him.[an error occurred while processing this directive]Tendulkar, a regular opening partner of skipper Saurav Ganguly in One-dayers, has pulled out of the series with a foot injury. Ganguly knows he will have to play a make-shift opener but was unsure on Thursday who it would be. "I think it is going to be a toss-up between Amay Khurasia and Yuvraj Singh," he said.Khurasia and Yuvraj are both specialist middle-order batsmen and neither of them has opened in international matches. Left-handed Khurasia has been in and out of the team since making an impressive 57 on debut against Sri Lanka at home in 1999. He has so far scored 137 in 10 One-dayers, averaging 15.22.Yuvraj also began his One-day career on a bright note when he scored a stroke-filled 84 in his second match, against Steve Waugh's Australians in the International Cricket Council's Knock Out tournament in Nairobi last year. That, however, was his only half-century in 14 appearances in which he has amassed 279 runs at an average of 21.46.Ganguly said Tendulkar's absence was a big loss, but India had won matches without the batting superstar in the past. "We have performed well without Sachin and hope to do so again this time," he said. "We were without him in 1999 when we won a tournament at Toronto and then qualified for the final of a four-nation tournament at Nairobi."The Indian skipper said his team had been playing good cricket for the past 10 months and getting better with each tournament. "We have won 70 per cent of our matches during this period," he said. "True, we have lost a few finals, but we have a young side learning and improving with each outing." Indian coach John Wright said he would like India to win, despite being a New Zealander. "To me, it is just another game against New Zealand. I am a professional," he said on the eve of his first match as India's coach against New Zealand.New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming will be looking forward to a better performance from his batsmen in the second match. His team failed to achieve a modest 221-run target against Sri Lanka in the opening game on Wednesday, losing by 16 runs. Fleming, however, was pleased with the efforts of left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori and medium-pacer Chris Harris, who bagged two wickets each for 42 runs during their 10-over spells. "It is good to have Vettori back in the team. He is an attacking bowler. He bowled well and so did Harris," he said.