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Javagal Srinath

India need to be at full strength

February 26, 2004

The initial apprehension of the Indian players about going to Pakistan was completely understandable. Their families were definitely worried as they rightly felt there was more to life than cricket.

I am sure the players did press the panic button when they first discussed the tour of Pakistan. Subsequently, both the governments assuring watertight protection and constantly reiterating the significance of the tour to help build a relationship between the countries made the players change their minds.

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Still, if a player is uncomfortable performing under such surveillance and wishes to back out, the entire fraternity should wholeheartedly respect his feelings. Such intentions of a player should not be misconstrued by anyone to show the player in bad light or make the cricket-loving public question his commitment to the game and the country.

I am confident that every cricketer is aware of the rivalry between the two countries and is always eager to do well against the arch-rivals. It is only the circumstances that made the players a bit more reluctant in accepting the series with open arms in the beginning.

Now that the tour of Pakistan is all set to begin, the players are already working on their game. With fitness problems still plaguing the side, the Indian skipper and his deputy were lucky enough to have the itinerary tailored to their requirements. The one-dayers preceding the Test matches will give the injured players time to come back for the Tests.

At present, the absence of Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar leaves the captain quite worried about his bowling department. Though not exactly a great batting side at the moment, the Pakistani batsmen will surely capitalise on India's relatively inexperienced bowling, thereby largely negating the strengths of the mighty Indian batting lineup.

Zaheer's hamstring injury and his immature understanding of his body have cost him a great deal. A hamstring injury if not treated properly can become chronic and haunt a player for long periods.

I saw Zaheer bowling in the nets at the MRF Pace Foundation under the watchful eyes of Dennis Lillie. Dennis has suggested that he cut down on the last leap that was loading his back and hamstring. Zaheer is feeling much better with the change and is already hitting a great line.

Having now understood the requirements of international fitness, Zaheer is categorical that he will not make another hasty re-entry without playing a few first-class games. He has also realised that it is necessary to bowl 20 overs a day on a few occasions to be match-fit again.

The tour has drawn attention from different parts of the world. Good performances will be very rewarding in terms of personal satisfaction as well as other benefits.

The Indians have certainly raised the bar of expectation during the series Down Under. This series could turn out to be daunting and emotionally charged if things don't go well for them. That is all the more reason why India needs a full-strength, fit team before crossing the Wagah border. Though it is the batting that is renowned, it is the bowlers who are really going to win matches.

The players will be in complete confinement without much to do off the field. I wish the players a safe trip and a great tour.

Previous column: One-day cricket leaves bowlers hapless


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