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Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- Time for Ganguly to make a mark of his own

Published: Monday, March 29, 2004, 18:30 [IST]
 
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Peshawar:India's captain Sourav Ganguly hopes to break free from the shackles imposed on him on and off the field to finally make a mark on the Pakistan tour.

Ganguly has met with moderate success at the start of his country's first full tour of Pakistan since 1989, but he knows the time has come for him to stand and be counted.

"Yes, I must get good runs in this important game," the Indian captain said ahead of Friday's third One-day International in this Northwestern city.

With both sides locked 1-1 in the five-match series, the victor on Friday will have a clear edge going into the last two games in Lahore on March 21 and 24.

Both the matches so far at Karachi and Rawalpindi produced in excess of 300 runs in each innings, so Ganguly's contributions of 45 and 15 were meagre by his lofty standards.

The stylish left-hander is one of the most prolific batsmen in Limited Overs cricket with 9,204 runs from 246 games. His 22 centuries are only second behind teammate Sachin Tendulkar's world record tally of 37.

Most of those hundreds came as an opening batsman, but Ganguly now bats in the middle-order to give the in-form duo of Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag the opportunity to make aggressive starts.

"I had the luxury to play more overs when I opened, but I have tried to adjust in the middle-order," he said. "It is not an excuse. I have to get runs in any position."

The pressure of touring Pakistan, where cricketers' movements are restricted by the tight security both at the team hotels and outside, would test the patience of even the most hardened tourist.

But Ganguly remains unconcerned. "The security does become stifling at times, but we have taken it in our stride," he said.

"There is no room to complain. We have been looked after very well on the tour so far."

Ganguly's worries are centred more on his depleted bowling attack, trying to contain without much success the free-stroking Pakistanis on beautiful batting wickets.

The Indians, already without three injured frontline bowlers, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble and Ajit Agarkar, were hit further when left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra was sent home with a hand injury.

The tourists have called up two-match rookie Amit Bhandari as a back-up for the Lahore One-dayers, making young Irfan Pathan an almost certain starter on Friday in Nehra's place.

"It's obvious the batsmen have to deliver every time," Ganguly said. "We have to put up enough runs on the board, because containing the opposition is not going to be easy on such good wickets."

The outspoken Indian captain, a master at playing mind games, has already taken a swipe at Pakistan's fiery paceman Shoaib Akhtar, whose controversial action has been a hot topic in world cricket.

Asked at a press conference if Akhtar's deliveries were legal, Ganguly shot back: "What do you think watching on TV? I think we all know the answer, don't we?"

Pakistan have so far refrained from joining issues with the Indian skipper, but his comments are certain to add spice to the last three One-dayers and the three Tests to follow.

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