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Middle order batting worries Dravid

November 05, 2003 17:29 IST

Rahul Dravid says the middle-order batsmen will have to raise their performance a few notches if India hopes to prevail over a "quality opposition" like New Zealand in the crucial triangular series match in Cuttack on Thursday.

"Yes, the middle order batting is an area we have to work on. We have to do better while batting second. We have to concentrate on excelling in all departments against the Kiwis, who are a quality opposition," he told newspersons after a practice session at the Barabati stadium on Wednesday.

The ace batsman, who is captaining the side in the absence of an indisposed Sourav Ganguly, attributed India's defeat to Australia in Mumbai to "tough" conditions.

"The conditions were not easy for a team batting second. They were tough," he said.

In the same breath, he refused say whether there are plans to change the batting order.

"Not that I know of. But we have to be as flexible as possible. I'll assess the situation as the game goes on," he said, ahead of the first-ever floodlit match at the venue.

Dravid said the playing eleven would be finalized on the morrow after taking a hard look at the existing conditions.

"All the 14 players are in with a chance."

He also admitted that the New Zealanders have the advantage of batting very deep down the order.

"They [New Zealand] indeed bat deep. But we have also good batsmen down the order though they may not have come up to expectations."

Commenting on the performance of the pacers, particularly Zaheer Khan who went for 64 runs from seven overs in the Mumbai match against Australia, Dravid said the left-arm seamer has the potential to bowl better in the initial overs.

"I don't think that he is still carrying the thrashing he received in the opening over of the World Cup final [against Australia]. But he himself will admit that he is capable of bowling better, especially in the opening overs.

"He did well in Gwalior but something went wrong in Mumbai. He is working hard and, hopefully, we will do better in the coming matches in the first 15 overs, because that is a key area when we are bowling."

He also strongly supported the inclusion of Parthiv Patel as a specialist wicketkeeper in the one-day side. "It is important to have a specialist wicketkeeper. I don't mind fitting into the role on odd days. But having a specialist should be the ultimate aim," he added.

Dravid, who is likely to return the reins of the team to Ganguly after tomorrow's match, said captaining the team is a hard job.

"It's a very hard job, I have done it only for a few games. But, to be honest, I take things as they come. And it is not for me to pass judgment on my own performance," he said, when asked to do a self-evaluation of his captaincy.

Ganguly is expected to return for the match against Australia in Bangalore next week after recovering from a painful abscess on his left thigh.

Dravid described the Barabati pitch as "very good" but added that the ball might keep low as the game progresses. He, however, refused to attach much importance to the toss factor, saying it will not be crucial.

On opener Virender Sehwag's awful run with the bat in the tri-series, he said, "He is a quality player. He is hitting the ball well at the nets. We hope that he scores runs in tomorrow's game."

He said seamer Ashish Nehra, who returned to the team after being sidelined for eight months due to an ankle injury sustained during the World Cup in South Africa earlier this year, is bowling his heart out in the nets and stands a decent chance of making it to the final eleven.

"He is now fully fit and bowling well. It is good to see him back in the top 14."

The skipper also said he sees a definite role in the scheme of things for left-arm spinner Murali Kartik. "He has been in and out of the Indian team for some time now. Hopefully, he will do well if given the opportunity," he said.

Asked about the floodlit arrangements in the stadium, Dravid replied, "It looks good. Yesterday we practiced under lights and found the arrangements okay."


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