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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > News > Report

India sticks to same 12

Faisal Shariff in Centurion | February 14, 2003 17:44 IST

After showing every indication of including all-rounder Sanjay Bangar in place of Mohammed Kaif, India has retained the same 12 for the crucial Pool A match against Australia on Saturday.

Bangar, who has repeatedly referred to as a key player by captain Saurav Ganguly, had an extended session at the nets, leading to speculation that he may be included in the 12, maybe even the playing XI.

But Ganguly sang a different tune at the match-eve press conference: "Bangar has got enough opportunities but he has not fulfilled his potential to merit a place. And he hasn't played enough one-dayers. But he is still in our scheme of things."

That means Kaif, who starred in India's Natwest finals victory at Lord's and the ICC Champions Trophy in Colombo but has been having a bad time with the bat lately, gets one more chance although it is unclear at this stage if he will find a place in the final XI.

Kaif scored 9 off 21 in India's World Cup opening match.

Speculation over Bangar's inclusion for the Australia match had picked up because India had gone into the Holland match with seven batsmen and four bowlers. The fifth bowling complement of 10 overs was shared by Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.

Including Bangar would have given Ganguly an extra bowling option against the Australians without greatly impacting the batting lineup. Bangar has a Test match century, and scored a whirlwind 50 against West Indies in the one-day series at home recently.

But it is clear that Kaif's current form is a problem area for the team. Tendulkar took personal interest in the young cricketer's session at the nets this afternoon. "Pressure mein nahi aneka. Kitna ability hai, kitna opportunities hai. Use kar. Jo hua abhi tak sab nikalde dimaag se. Just play your natural game," he told Kaif.

The team's other bone of contention -- the opening slot -- too is far from being resolved. Ganguly was emphatic that he would open the innings with Tendulkar on Saturday although the general clamour has been for the skipper to drop down given his current form, and allow Sehwag and Tendulkar to open.

Ganguly refused to be drawn into a debate that he was proving to be a handicap against quality fast bowling. "We've batsmen who can cope with pace. Aren't the Australians suspect against spin," he asked.

Sources told rediff.com that the team's current thinking is that Sehwag would be back at the top of the batting order, but only after the Australia game.

Sehwag was heard telling Ganguly at the nets: 'Jo aap bolo, Dada. Sirf ek din pehle bata dena ki mereko one drop jaana hai' (whatever you say, captain, just let me know a day before that I have to go one-drop).

But the Australian coach John Buchanan believes the Indians were looking for practice against Holland and experimenting with their batting order with the bigger match over the weekend in mind.

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