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India set for wake-up call as coach dreams 07

Published: Saturday, October 22, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
 
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New Delhi:India coach Greg Chappell's attempt to build a team for the 2007 World Cup faces a stern test as Sri Lanka and South Africa come calling for 12 One-day matches over the next one month.

India host Sri Lanka for a series of seven one-dayers, starting in Nagpur on Tuesday, before Graeme Smith's South Africans play another five games from mid-November.

The Indians, World Cup finalists in 2003, have slumped to number seven in the International Cricket Council's one-day rankings, while Sri Lanka are second behind Australia and South Africa fifth.

Chappell, the former Australian captain who took over as India's coach in June, wants to pick those players whom he considers likely contenders for the next World Cup in the Caribbean.

"The year 2007 seems a long way away but we need to start looking at it seriously from now, taking into account injuries, form and other factors," he said.

"We need to use our resources wisely as it's easier for a youngster to come into an experienced side.

"Australia struggled in the 1980s because they did not bring in youngsters at the right time and we need to be careful in that regard."

Chappell has already convinced the selectors to change captains, with Rahul Dravid replacing Sourav Ganguly, India's most successful Test skipper who was involved in an ugly spat with the coach last month.

In a leaked e-mail to cricket board officials after the Zimbabwe tour, Chappell stated that Ganguly was physically and mentally unfit to lead India.

The Indian squad for the first two one-dayers against Sri Lanka, which excludes Ganguly, also bears the Chappell stamp with a horde of youngsters rubbing shoulders with the veterans.

Seven players in the 15-man squad have played less than 20 One-day internationals and seamer S. Sreesanth is a debutant.

Notable omissions due to injury or poor form include four regular front-line bowlers, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Anil Kumble and Laxmipathy Balaji, leaving the attack badly shorn of experience.

Seamer Ajit Agarkar, with 217 one-day wickets, is the most experienced bowler in the squad. He is followed by spinner Harbhajan Singh with 127 wickets and Irfan Pathan (63).

But four other bowlers, Sreesanth, Murali Kartik, Rudra Pratap Singh and Jai Prakash Yadav, have 24 wickets between them.

These bowlers are expected to contain a strong Sri Lankan batting line-up that includes Sanath Jayasuriya (10,122 runs), skipper Marvan Atapattu (7,543), Mahela Jayawardena (4,739) and Kumar Sangakkara (3,371) on Indian wickets tailor-made for batting.

India's batting also presents a vulnerable look with world record-holder Sachin Tendulkar feeling his way back after an elbow injury and Ganguly, the other Indian with more than 10,000 runs, not selected.

Seasoned middle-order batsman Venkatsai Laxman, a formidable Test batsman, was a surprising omission from the squad despite scoring a century in the domestic Challenger One-day series earlier this month.

"It seems Laxman does not figure in Chappell's plans for the 2007 World Cup and that is a pity," said former all-rounder Kapil Dev.

"It will take a lot of hard work by this team to beat Sri Lanka or South Africa. My fingers are crossed."

India have played two One-day finals this season and lost both: to Sri Lanka in Colombo and New Zealand in Harare.

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