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Desperate Indians face no-win situation

November 29, 2003 01:36 IST
Last Updated: November 29, 2003 01:50 IST

India face what must rank as the poorest opposition they have played in a tour game in any country in many years as they take on a virtual Queensland academy side at the Gabba, Brisbane, in their last practice match before the first Test at the same venue.

The Indians, desperate to get their act together after being pounded by the Victorian batsmen, Brad Hodge in particular, in the tour opener at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, must be disappointed to see eight key players missing from the Queensland line-up for the three-day game beginning today.

Thanks to the awkward scheduling of the tour (read Prem Panicker's column), the seniors are busy with Queensland's Pura Cup match against South Australia in Adelaide, leaving the tourists badly short of real match practice ahead of the sterner test coming up.

Queensland go into the match without Matthew Hayden, Andrew Bichel, Andrew Symonds, Michael Kasprowicz, Martin Love, Jimmy Maher, Nathan Hauritz and Stuart Law, leaving a team comprising mostly Queensland Academy of Sport players to take on the tourists.

The match is scheduled to get over on Monday. And the first Test on the quick and bouncy Gabba track, believed to be at its liveliest in years, starts just three days later.

What's worse, the Indians find themselves in a no-win situation. If they put Queensland under pressure or win the game, no one will take it seriously. But if they don't, that will only dent their confidence further.

Indian captain Sourav Ganguly put on a brave face and said his players would try to make the most of the match. "First or second eleven, we hope to get good practice from Queensland ahead of the Test," he said at the Gabba after an afternoon practice session with his team. "We need good outing for our batters and bowlers and this is what these side games are meant to be."

The Indians are worried more on account of their bowling, which failed miserably against Victoria, none too strong a team, and is now unlikely to be tested by the rookie Queensland line-up.

Just about the only batsman of some recognition Queensland have in their line-up is young Aaron Nye, 20, who was the leading run-scorer in Brisbane first grade last season with an aggregate of 918 runs.

There is also Craig Philipson, barely 21, who is yet to make his first-class debut, but was part of the Australian under-19 team that won the World Cup in 2001-2002.

Daniel Payne, Shane Jargensen and Steve Sarrell all got their first-class break only this season.

The Indian batsmen though could have some useful practice with Scott Bryant, Joe Dawes and Steve Magoffin all having made some impression as fast bowlers last season.

Bryant hails from Zimbabwe, but was granted Australian residency this year. He is an excellent sportsman, having represented Zimbabwe at the youth level in hockey, swimming, cricket, triathlon and athletics. He played for Essex in English county cricket this season, taking 37 wickets from 11 games before a knee surgery set him back.

Dawes took 43 first-class wickets to get past the 150 wicket mark last season and played county cricket with Middlesex this season. He is a former policeman who also works as a media adviser for a parliamentarian.

Magoffin is rated a promising bowler on the basis of his performance at the junior level, which includes most wickets for the academy team last season.

The Indians are keen to try out V V S Laxman and Anil Kumble in this game as both missed the tie against Victoria because of flu. Laxman has been a prolific scorer for India in recent times, including 279 runs from two Tests against New Zealand at an average of 139.50 in the October home series.

Having picked up five wickets at a high cost of 90.00 per innings, Kumble is not only keen to restore his reputation but also extend his distinguished career, which is clearly on its last leg.

Virender Sehwag gets another chance to restore his confidence before the first Test and both Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, the captain and vice-captain of the side, are keen to have some runs under their belt.

Among the four to sit out this game will be little master Sachin Tendulkar. "The four who will sit out in this game are Sachin [Tendulkar], Zaheer [Khan], Harbhajan [Singh] and Ashish [Nehra]," the captain said. "The other 12 are up for selection."

On the other hand, almost certain is the return of fast-medium bowler Ajit Agarkar, who missed out at the MCG but is looking forward to this game. Agarkar has looked in good nick of late and was also India's leading wicket-taker on the previous tour of Australia in 1999-2000 with 11 scalps at 31.91, including Steve Waugh three times.

If, as expected, the Indians leave out Deep Dasgupta from the playing XI, the Bengal wicket-keeper-batsman will be the only player not to have got a tour game before the Test series begins.

India (from): Akash Chopra, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, S Ramesh, Sourav Ganguly, V V S Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble, Laxmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan Jr, Deep Dasgupta.
Queensland: Scott Bryant, Lee Carsledine, Joe Dawes, Christ Hartley, Steve Magoffin, Steve Ryan, Aaron Nye, Craig Philipson, Steve Sarrell, Shane Jargensen, Daniel Payne.


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