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India might opt for five bowlers

Faisal Shariff in Kolkata | November 17, 2003 16:02 IST

Ricky Ponting was patting himself on the back for predicting how the Eden Gardens wicket would be.

"I knew that the wicket would be dry and take a lot of turn, but it is a good batting tack," he said, after another gruelling training session in Kolkata on Monday.

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After India skipper Sourav Ganguly, who went straight from the airport to the Eden Gardens, expressed displeasure about the preparation of the playing strip, watering of the wicket was stopped in a bid to have a dry, turning track for the tri-series final on Tuesday.

The Indian think-tank is weighing the fifth bowler's option, which means India will go in with six batsmen instead of seven. The idea behind the move is to stall the Aussie onslaught in the first 15 overs when opener Adam Gilchrist is known to take the game away from the opposition.

The think-tank will be tempted to play five bowlers -- three seamers and two spinners -- to give the captain some options if the opening pair of seamers fails to stem the flow of runs.

With two seamers in the side, the need to introduce a spinner early on poses problems in the latter stages of the innings when the spinners have completed most of their overs. As the ball does not come on to the bat, new batsmen at the crease struggle to score against the spinners.

Mohammad Kaif is most likely to be omitted from the Indian side for the final and Anil Kumble, who has 14 wickets from three One-Day Internationals at Eden Gardens, is likely to make way for the in-from Murali Kartik.

To omit V V S Laxman for the final will be a huge mistake, considering that it was at the Eden Gardens that he scored his epic 281 which enabled India win the 2001 Test against the Aussies after following-on.

Kartik has been omitted from the squad to go to Australia and it would be interesting to see what happens if he gets a five-wicket haul in Tuesday's match.

Ponting said his batsmen have played the spinners pretty well during the series and will adjust to the conditions.

"We are confident going into the final and we have reason to because of the way we have played. We deserve to be confident also because of the way we beat India in the last two games. No matter what happens we just need to adapt to the conditions to win," Ponting said.

The Eden Gardens has a capacity of 93,000. Add another few thousand policemen to that and the number easily goes up to 100, 000 people.

"Sourav told me during the toss at Bangalore that if India make it through to the final then there would be close to 120,000 people in the stadium. My players were very excited to hear that and they are looking forward to the game. Of course, we won't have too many of our supporters there but we will try to keep them quite."

Ponting also felt if Ganguly misses the game it will be a huge gain for his side, though he does not worry about things that are not in his control.

"Over here [in Kolkata], Ganguly not playing would make a huge difference. The crowd would be disappointed not to see him play. Ganguly is an outstanding player and he makes a huge difference to the Indian team," he said.

Australia's Test skipper Steve Waugh once joked that the toss is just a way to get the game started and he never bothers too much about winning or losing it.

His successor Ponting said much the same about the importance of the toss.

"Not many matches have been decided on tosses. I don't bother about it," he said.

"But it is more than likely that we would bat if I won the toss. Batting is easier in the day and becomes a struggle as the night falls, with the dew factor coming into play."

Ponting refused to name his eleven, saying all his players are fit for selection and a final decision would be made on the morning of the match.

Likely Indian team:

Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar, Aavishkar Salvi, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik.

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