Thatscricket - News - 'If we go at full strength, we can beat Pak'

Published: Monday, February 16, 2004, 20:23 [IST]
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New Delhi:India's cricket captain Sourav Ganguly set at rest speculation that top stars may pull out of the Pakistan tour, saying he looked forward to playing there.

"Most of the team members have not played any Test cricket in Pakistan. So we are kind of keen to go there," Ganguly told the 'Mid-Day' newspaper in his first public comments after the Government gave the green signal for the ice-breaking tour last week.

India are to play three Tests and five One-day Internationals on their first full tour of Pakistan in almost 15 years, scheduled to begin in early March.

The detailed itinerary is expected to be announced this week.

The go-ahead for the tour came on Saturday after a week of media speculation that the home ministry wanted the tour to be put off till after the parliamentary elections due in April and May.

Ganguly had earlier voiced security concerns about the tour, but appeared satisfied following the recent visit to Pakistan of a three-member delegation of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The delegation, which will return to New Delhi later on Monday, included a security expert from the home ministry.

The Indian captain said he was confident the best available squad will undertake the tour.

"I will not force anybody to come," he said. "If any cricketer is concerned about security in Pakistan, I think we should accept that."

The 'Mid-Day' said all the senior players it spoke to, including star batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, indicated they will tour.

Tendulkar, who made his international debut on the previous tour of Pakistan in 1989, is the only current player from either side to be involved in a Test match between the arch-rivals on Pakistani soil.

Ganguly's only worries centred around injuries sustained by his main bowlers, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh on the recent tour of Australia.

Of the four, off-spinner Harbhajan has been ruled out of the Pakistan tour due to surgery on his bowling hand. Zaheer and Agarkar have hamstring worries while Kumble has a sore shoulder.

"I think if we go at full strength, we can beat Pakistan," Ganguly said.

"Pakistan will be formidable rivals at home. We have to seriously think about the fitness of the bowlers. We should go with an off-spinner. In the absence of Harbhajan, we should find one off-spinner who can produce big turn."

Ganguly said the three-week rest after the Australian tour was sufficient, but hoped the team will have a short training camp before departing for Pakistan.

The Indian team for the tour will be finalised later this month.

Tour is on, but no smiles from Indian camp

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