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Winning is important, says Ganguly

M R Mishra | March 10, 2004 23:20 IST
Last Updated: March 10, 2004 23:22 IST

After arriving in Lahore on Wednesday for the start of a historic series, Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly declared that his team would play to win all their matches against Pakistan, indicating that the 'goodwill' nature of the tour will not dilute the determination of his players.

Shortly after the team arrived in Lahore, Ganguly told a press conference that he did not agree that the goodwill factor would dilute his team's determination to put it across the hosts. "It is important to win the series," he said. "It is a cricket match and both teams will try to win."

Ganguly was responding to remarks by Pakistan coach Javed Miandad that winning and losing was irrelevant and the only winner in this goodwill series would be the game.

The suave Indian captain had a simple plan to stop 'Rawalpindi Express' Shoaib Akhtar: "Pull the chain!" he said.

"We do not have a special strategy to counter Shoaib," he continued. "We will have to play Akhtar on the merit of the ball. We have to see what he bowls."

Ganguly added that his side was not daunted by the prospect of playing on fast wickets. "We toured Australia and did very well on fast wickets. The boys are eager to do well here also. It is the team which plays well on the day which will win in both one-dayers and Tests."

But he conceded that the team needs to improve in certain areas. "We did well in Australia. Obviously we wanted to win there, but I think it is a good sign that we could compete against the best side in the world."

The Indian captain also denied that his team's thrashing in the VB tri-series finals against Australia would have any bearing when it takes on Pakistan in a series of five One-Day Internationals beginning on Saturday.

"We played poorly in the last two matches," he said. "But to be honest Australia lifted their game several notches. All the other matches were keenly contested and we are eager to maintain consistency and win all the crunch matches against Pakistan."

Ganguly refused to comment on Sunil Gavaskar's observation that India were chokers when it came to finals of tournaments. "We respect Gavaskar. I don't want to make a comment, but I think it is better to play the finals than lose in the earlier rounds."

Asked why Kapil Dev, appointed the team's bowling consultant recently, was not accompanying the team, he said, "He was asked by the board to coach fast bowlers at the camp in Kolkata. I think he does not have the time..."

Ganguly allayed all doubts over Sachin Tendulkar saying "he is 100 per cent fit. He had a stiff back during the camp, but now he is okay".

On the absence through injury of ace spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, Ganguly said, "They are the two best spinners in the country. But I am confident [Murali] Kartik will do a very good job for us. We do expect Kumble to be fit for the Tests though."

The captain said the Pakistan side is young but talented. "They don't have [Wasim] Akram and [Waqar] Younis now, but there are some good players. I think they are a good side."

Asked what Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had told him and his mates at a meeting earlier in the day in New Delhi, he said: "He wished us good luck and said he would follow the games on TV."

Summing up his feelings on being a part of history, Ganguly said: "It feels good to be in Pakistan. We are coming here after 15 years. We hope to play good cricket."

Asked why the cricketers had come without their wives, he said, "The ODI series is a bit tight. We don't stay at one place for long but later on when the Tests begin, it will be easier."

Coach John Wright said: "It is a great opportunity for the team to win because the team has made a lot of progress and has matured. We had an excellent year although we could not beat Australia in one-dayers. We have a good batting lineup and the Australian tour was a step forward for us."

The former New Zealand captain said the pressure would be more on Pakistan as they would be playing in front of home crowds. "Both teams will feel pressure. We have nothing to lose... Also we have a little more experience," he said.

Wright felt it would not be tough for his side to concentrate on the game amidst the unprecedented media hype. "I have told them to concentrate on cricket and then relax. I am sure the boys will be able to do that -- it is just a question of how you switch on and off."

Earlier, Indian team manager Ratnakar Shetty opened the press conference with a warm message of greetings from across the border. "I want to convey the greetings on behalf of the team and the people of India. There was a lot of talk about this tour and we took a pre-tour of Pakistan to assess the security and now we have landed to play exciting cricket and people will definitely enjoy the game," he said.

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