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Ganguly seeks 'special effort' from team

February 05, 2004 15:57 IST

India will be looking to put behind past disappointments when they take on World champions Australia on the familiar and docile pitch of the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the first of the best-of-three VB tri-series finals in Melbourne on Friday.

The injury-induced absence of in-form leg spinner Anil Kumble, who was ruled unfit for the match on Thursday, is sure to hinder the tourists' chances, but skipper Sourav Ganguly is looking to overcome the odds with a "special effort" from his team.

"Past does not matter. We did not have a great record in Australia in the past, but in due course of the summer it took a special effort from us to change that," Ganguly said after Thursday's training session.

Ganguly was apparently referring to India's dismal record against Australia last year. They lost the World Cup final before being humiliated at home in a tri-series summit clash. In the ongoing triangular series Down Under, India lost three matches to the hosts while winning just one in the league round.

But the India skipper was positive about the finals, saying: "We have all improved over the last couple of months. If we can finish it off well, it would be a nice way to go back home."

Kumble tried his best to prove himself fit and play a part in the crucial phase of India's campaign. He bowled and threw at the nets this morning, but was ruled unfit considering his long-term fitness prospects.

Otherwise, Ganguly has a complete bunch of cricketers to pick from though it is unlikely his choice will deviate much from the straight and tested.

Much as the likes of Hemang Badani and Ashish Nehra have done to establish their credentials, it is unlikely Ganguly will tamper with his trusted line-up.

Badani played a match-winning hand against Zimbabwe at Perth on Tuesday but he is unlikely to be preferred ahead of Rohan Gavaskar, who has been solid and consistent, if not spectacular.

Nehra is clearly lagging behind Irfan Pathan and L Balaji in the stakes for the medium-pacers' berth and his chances are not helped with the form of Ajit Agarkar.

Agarkar's bowling has been the story of this tour and, as he showed against Australia in Perth on Sunday, he has lost nothing in the art of wicket-taking against the World champions.

The wiry Mumbai bowler has taken only nine wickets in the series but all of them have come against Australia, that too in just two games. His swing has been the major factor even though his length has bothered at times.

India are hoping that openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar return to their run-making ways prior to injuries and there was much to suggest a certain eagerness in the two in the nets.

India will also be looking up to Rahul Dravid and Ganguly to fire at their batting best but should have no doubts over VVS Laxman, who indicated against Zimbabwe in Perth he is still hungry for runs on the tour.

Laxman has so far scored 908 runs in Tests and one-dayers combined on the tour and certainly 1,000 runs from the summer is not beyond him.

Ganguly has asked his bowlers to bowl well in pairs, like they did against Zimbabwe when they bowled out the minnows for 135. Balaji, in particular, had two fine, accurate spells in Perth even though he did not pick all that many wickets.

Australia too are back to full strength with the return of captain Ricky Ponting, who was rested in their final league game against India.

The Aussies made good use of the rotation policy in the league but will take nothing for granted in the finals.

Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist had provided the early thrust to Australia's campaign but as soon as it became clear they were in the finals both were rested in turns. Now they are back together and Australia are hoping their feared openers will give them the best possible start.

Ponting, who had a splendid Test series with over 700 runs, will also be keen to make a valuable contribution as captain. He is also aware that Damien Martyn is not among the runs and Michael Clarke has lost his way a bit lately. Andrew Symonds though continues to be a pillar of strength.

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More importantly, Australia will like their pace attack of Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Brad Williams to show the intensity they displayed last week, albeit on a pitch tailor-made for fast bowling.

The induction of the experienced Michael Kasprowicz at the cost of Andy Bichel has added spice to the attack.

The MCG pitch had a tinge of grass on Thursday, but whether it is there or not tomorrow, the wicket is unlikely to be like that of Perth, where the Indian batsmen stuttered and struggled to connect bat with ball.


India: Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Rohan Gavaskar, Hemang Badani, VVS Laxman, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Laxmipathy Balaji and Ashish Nehra.

Australia: Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Simon Katich, Michael Kasprowicz, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Brad Hogg, Brad Williams and Ian Harvey.

Umpires: Steve Bucknor (WI) and Simon Taufel (Aus), Third umpire: Darryl Harper.

Ashish Shukla
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