Rival captains upbeat ahead of second ODI

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Cuttack:The word 'tricky' has evidently been playing on captain Rahul Dravid as he chose to go with five bowlers, including two spinners, tomorrow striving to keep up the winning momentum against a spirited West Indies in the second one-dayer at the Barabati Stadium here.

Another positive from India's point of view is that West Indies captain Brian Lara may not take the field tomorrow after a left-knee injury.

''I will practice today. But I will decide tomorrow whether to play or not,'' Lara said here today.

Immediately after winning the first ODI against the Caribs at Nagpur, Dravid said the pitch in Cuttack is ''slow and tricky and we have to be on our toes''. He has evidently not forgotten Scott Styris and Craig MacMillan, who robbed India of a victory when India played New Zealand last time at this venue under his stewardship, after the then captain Sourav Ganguly opted out due to an injury.

Coming to terms with the dew became a problem for the Indian bowlers, as New Zealand stole the match after being 50 for four at one time. He would keep that in mind during the toss.

Dravid further said he preferred to play with five bowlers and was looking to play an all-rounder. Another lesson the Indian skipper had learnt.

Other than giving Ramesh Powar a berth, young Suresh Raina, who turned out in the opening game of the series at Nagpur has made way for pace bowling all-rounder Joginder Sharma in the 12 announced by Dravid at the match-eve media meet.

It will also be a toss-up between either S Sreesanth or Sharma before the final XI is decided tomorrow. Dravid described the track as dry being potentially a spinning pitch.

The Indian captain said, ''The ball could come slow on to the wicket and even keep low. We have decided on the combination after looking at the condition, and opted for the extra spinner.'' The hosts' decision to play a four-pronged bowling attack in the opening match almost mis-fired as Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul tore apart three of the frontline bowlers and Dravid found it difficult to plug the holes in the bowling attack.

From the 15-member squad, apart from Raina, opener Robin Uthappa and pacer R P Singh would continue to sit out.

On the decision to leave out Raina, Dravid said, we decided to give him a break as we want to play the extra spinner. It is more vital for us in this condition.'' With comeback man Sourav Ganguly setting the stage by scoring an electrifying 98, the star-studded Indian batting line-up - derided for their consistent streak of inconsistencies and a string of poor shows in the recent South Africa tour - sparkled to give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.

However, the Indians can hardly relax. West Indies demonstrated what they were capable of when Shivnarine Chanderpaul went ballistic putting the home side on a sticky wicket, before they finally scraped through.

The game at the Barabati stadium, which is hosting an ODI after a three-year gap, is vital for both teams in deciding the series. An Indian triumph would mean the hosts cannot lose the rubber, while for the West Indies it is a battle for keeping alive their chances of taking home the series.

Pitch Curator Prabir Mukherjee, however, feels that it would be an ideal one-day track. Mr Mukherjee told UNI, ''It will be a belter of a track in the morning and if the dew factor comes into play in the evening, it could take the pace off the pitch.'' ''So the team that wins the toss should bat first. It will be an advantage,'' he said.

The Brian Lara-led Caribbeans have dominated India in the recent past, and victories in six of the last nine matches is indicator enough of that. In fact, such was their confidence level, that Lara was heard using expressions like ''continuing with the psychological advantage'' and ''looking forward to staying dominant over India'' during his media interactions in the run-up to the series.

Lara said even today, the momentum has not shifted in India's favour. The fact that we came so close to winning puts us on a high.

It was one match and we have maintained an upper hand on India and hope to maintain that.'' ''Other teams would have given up mid-way. But we came so close chasing such a big total,'' he said.

On a low after the 0-4 drubbing against South Africa days back, the Men in Blue could not have dreamt of a better beginning to boost their morale and get their adrenaline level high against the tourists from the calypso land.

All frontline Indian batsmen, save veteran Sachin Tendulkar, struck half-centuries, and the new opening combine of Ganguly and Gautam Gambhir went cracking.

If South Africa marked the talismanic left-hander's rebirth in Test cricket, Nagpur saw his royal re-entry into the ODI fold.

Gambhir's aggressive 69 has also meant the Delhi opener was in the driver's seat at least for now. For under-pressure wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the cracker of an innings at Nagpur could not have come at a better time.

West Indies, losing the ever-reliable Ramnaresh Sarwan to injury, would be hoping for another scintillating performance from their crack opening duo of Chris Gayle and Chanderpaul.

Gayle, adjudged the man of the tournament for his consistent success stories both with the bat and the ball in the ICC Champions Trophy in India late last year, is a player who can single-handedly win a match for his side on his day, while the cool-as-cucumber Chanderpaul always fancies his chances against the Indian attack.

With Ian Bradshaw suddenly looking off-colour and Jerome Taylor not showing any conviction, the West Indian bowling looks to be a bit disoriented.

And filling in the spaces with bits and pieces bowler with the Men in Blue showing some form could well spell doom for them. The fact that Chris Gayle was their most successful bowler could be something to think about.

With Dwayne Bravo out of action tomorrow things do not look bright.

For those statistically inclined, Barabati has been a happy hunting ground for India, though the script seems to have changed of late.

The hosts have won six of their 10 matches at the venue, but went down to England and New Zealand in their last two ties. West Indies, on the other hand, have featured only once in the 1994-95 season, when they went down to India by eight wickets. Lara and Chanderpaul are the only two surviving members from that game in the present squad.

India last played here against New Zealand in 2003 and lost.

But irrespective of what the statistics have to say, the fact remains the West Indians have had the upper hand against the Indians off-late and the match will be played on even keel when the two clash here tomorrow.


India: Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid (capt), Sachin Tendulkar (vice-capt), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan and Joginder Sharma

West Indies: Brian Lara (capt), Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Runako Morton, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, Dinesh Ramdin (wk), Lendl Simmons, Ian Bradshaw, Rayad Emrit, Darren Powell, Devon Smith and Jerome Taylor.

Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZ), Amish Saheba (Ind) and Third umpire: G A Pratapkumar (Ind).

Match referee: Allan Hurst (Aus).


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