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Time to make the hard work pay

October 15, 2003

The biggest news on the eve of the second match of the Videocon Test Series was Sourav Ganguly's non-availability for the game due to a minor surgery. A last-minute pullout by the captain can't help the cause of the team, and the impact of Ganguly's injury can only be gauged from tomorrow onwards. If we sense any weakness in the Indians due to the absence of their captain, we will have to ruthlessly go in for the kill.

Having said that, the Indian team is an experienced lot, and players like Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble will team up with stop-gap skipper Rahul Dravid to give him all the support he needs. The captain will be missed, but there are many old warhorses in that Indian camp.

Stand-in skipper Rahul Dravid with standing skipper Sourav GangulyIt has been a tough time for captains since I too received a blow on my head during practice on Monday. Since I was feeling a little dizzy I had a couple of tests done and, fortunately, all was well.

The draw at Ahmedabad has instilled a great deal of confidence and enthusiasm in the team. A lot of credit for the way we fought back must go to coach Ashley Ross. When we were in New Zealand, he was responsible for formulating programmes that would help us when we played in the subcontinent. Along with the support team, he has honed the skills that come into play in these conditions. It was Ross' vision and professionalism that ensured that we landed in India more prepared than earlier teams from New Zealand.

I read in a recent column by Sunil Gavaskar that he thought we looked more prepared than many teams that have visited India in the past. Thanks Rossy, you made it possible.

Also, our team does not have a star performer like some other teams do. We do have match-winners, but because they are not feted as megastars, nobody feels dwarfed and there is a great sense of mateship when we are on tour.

The team is buoyant, and now it's a question of making all the hard work and enthusiasm work at the right moment. Our catching was a little below par in the first Test, and we have worked hard at it over the last couple of days. Hopefully we won't grass anything that comes our way this time round.

Nath's absence from the tri-series will affect us, but since his knee is just recovering, we thought it best to shield him from the rigours of one-day cricket in view of the long home season ahead of us. But he is as keen as he was in the last Test, and the injury has shown no signs of deterioration over the last week, so his return is more a case of precaution.

The Mohali pitch did not give hints as to how it will play tomorrow morning. It looks pretty dry and cracked, but history suggests that it does have more pace and bounce. I remember Dion Nash coming here and wrecking the top order a few years ago, but that pitch was damp and looked very different from this one.

We are retaining the same 12 for this Test, and the final eleven will be picked only after taking one last look at the pitch in the morning.


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