Dravid will continue to keep in ODIs: Ganguly

Published: Friday, July 2, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:There will be no respite for Rahul Dravid -- the star batsman will double up as a wicketkeeper for India.

Indian captain Sourav Ganguly has firmly ruled that his deputy will continue to keep wickets in One-dayers, saying there was no need to change the combination that was delivering results for the team.

"It's going on well. I don't think we need to change anything which is doing the job. Dravid is wonderful behind the stumps and as a batsman...At the present moment, it is going to be Dravid," Ganguly told NDTV's 'Newsnight' programme.

Ganguly said it may be hard for Dravid to perform the dual role but it was important to realise that the team comes first.

"I understand it's hard on him but we have to realise that the team comes first. It's the same reason why I stepped down from opening the batting and am now batting at number three or four for the country," he said.

Ganguly's categorical statement puts an end to speculation on whether Dravid would don the wicketkeeping gloves after having expressed his reluctance to perform the dual role saying it was high time a specialist keeper was given the job. The vice-captain had, however, said that hewould abide by the team management's decision.

Asked whether the team would go in for a full-time wicketkeeper in One-dayers, Ganguly said, "we have been trying to do that for quite some time now, find a regular wicketkeeper who will contribute with the bat. Top sides in One-dayers around the world have 'keepers who are contributingwith the bat.

"It is for that reason Dravid was made to keep wickets during the NatWest trophy in England and if you have a look at our One-day performances since then, the number of games won, it has been won by batsmen batting at number seven."

Ganguly said the team would consider relieving Dravid of the dual job only if it found somebody who could deliver the job as good as the vice-captain.

"If somebody is there to deliver the job as good as Dravid does, it is more than welcome. But at the present moment it is going to be Dravid," he said.

On the controversy surrounding India's opening combination for the Tests, he said both Yuvraj Singh and Aakash Chopra were in contention and a decision will be taken before the Test series against Australia gets underway in October.

"The Test matches start in October, so this problem does not arise now. We will think about it when October comes. But both Yuvraj and Chopra are definitely in contention," he said.

Ganguly, India's most successful Test captain, said Yuvraj had a wonderful tour of Pakistan and was definitely "part of the thinking".

"Before the Pakistan tour, it was made clear to him (Yuvraj) that he might have to open. We have three openers out of which we will decide in October," he said.

Ganguly, however, ruled out the possibility of opening the batting himself. "I have been doing a good job at number five. Yuvraj is definitely a strong contender to open the innings".

On the fitness of some of the players like Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh who have returned from injury, the captain said their match fitness could only be judged at the conditioning camp beginning in Chennai on Saturday.

"In Bangalore, it was the fitness camp. I think they have done a wonderful job. But one must realise that physical fitness and bowling fitness are two different things."

"Zaheer and Nehra are fast bowlers. It is the nature of their job to get injured. Fast bowlers all around the world get injured at some stage of their careers because of their work...Now that the cricket camp starts in Chennai, we have to wait and see how they bowl at the nets. Their match fitness will be judged. I think they are fit," he said.

The stylish left-hander said the emergence of new fast bowlers has brought about a healthy competition among the seamers that was good for the team.

"It is good for the team. You have got guys competing for places, it keeps them on their toes. A lot of cricket is being played these days, and its good to have a group of boys ready to replace the injured one and the result will still be the same," he said.

Asked whether he was contemplating to field two spinners during the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, Ganguly said, "we will have to wait and see how the conditions are in Sri Lanka. We will play in Dambulla where we have never played before. Too early to say what combination we will have".

Reacting to cricketing greats like Clive Lloyd and Waqar Younis who have rated India as the favourites to win the Asia Cup, Ganguly said it was not often that a team goes into a tournament as favourites and it was important to get into the rhythm early.

"It's good to go into the series as favourites. It does not happen to many teams. But we have to deliver. We played well in the last season, but we are coming off a break. We need to get into the rhythm," he said.

On whether the Indian team had made winning a habit, Ganguly said it was important to maintain consistency in order to be a great side like Australia.

"I don't know whether we have made winning a habit as we have not played after Pakistan. We did well in Australia and Pakistan and even the year before that we won quite a few number of games. Future will prove whether it has become a habit."

"It is important to maintain the consistency, that's why Australia is such a great side. We have to find that rhythm," he added.

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