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India can still turn things around: Allan Donald
Battered and bruised by two humiliating defeats, India go into the fourth One-Day International against South Africa, in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday, with a fragile batting, further crippled by the absence of captain and lynchpin Rahul Dravid [Images].
The injury to Dravid, who suffered a fracture on his right middle finger, could not have come at a worse time for the beleaguered Indians, who are under immense pressure to improve their performance.
Dravid's unavailability has put Virender Sehwag [Images] in charge of the team but the opener himself is going through a prolonged lean patch.
Trailing the five-match series 0-2, the visitors need an inspiring performance, with collective firing from their key batsmen, to be able to turn tables on the hosts.
After the first match was washed out by rain, the Indian batsmen struggled against the South African pace attack, losing the last two matches by margins of more than 100 runs.
Stylish batsman VVS Laxman, who was initially overlooked for the series, has been drafted into the squad, but it appears unlikely that he will be able to reach the venue in time for Wednesday's match.
The team appears worn out by happenings on the field in South Africa, as well as off-field issues, and the players as well as coach Greg Chappell [Images] have reasons to feel under siege.
Stand-in captain Sehwag now has the dual responsibility of attending to his batting as well as motivating the players. He missed the first two matches of the tour due to a finger injury and is struggling to find form, having got out for a 'duck' in the third ODI on Sunday.
Sachin Tendulkar [Images] too could be feeling the heat, as he has done nothing to shore up the team's cause. Another failure could park the caravan of critics right in front of his door.
But the team is not missing out on moments to celebrate, as it was only yesterday that Suresh Raina's birthday was celebrated with vigour, although such moments on this tour have been few and far between.
Laxman's arrival in a way is a complete letdown for Chappell's philosophy of looking to find younger and fitter players to shape India's one-day line-up in years to come.
Chappell has always been a big advocate of encouraging at least two-dimensional cricketers in the team, but the return of Zaheer Khan [Images] and Anil Kumble [Images], and now Laxman, appears a vote of no-confidence against his fresh-legs theory by the selectors.
The Indians have done the act of shifting horses midstream and it must be said that their World Cup plans, as well as those for the future, are going awry.
South Africa, on the other hand, have the luxury of trying out new faces and have gone ahead and done exactly that for the fourth match by adding Ashwell Prince to the squad.
Prince replaces Boeta Dippenaar in the only change to the South African ODI squad for the last two matches of the series.
The left-hander is not quite cut-out for one-day cricket, but his powers of concentration of technique as well as fine running between the wickets would be an invaluable asset in the Caribbean next year.
Otherwise, the squad remains the same and the hosts feel no need to alter it on a pitch that has the reputation of being the slowest in South Africa.
India: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag (capt), Mohammad Kaif, Dinesh Mongia, Dinesh Kaarthick, Mahendra Singh Dhoni [Images], Anil Kumble, Ajit Agarkar [Images], Harbhajan Singh [Images], S Sreesanth [Images], Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel [Images] and Zaheer Khan.
South Africa: Graeme Smith [Images], Loots Bosman, Jacques Kallis [Images], Herschelle Gibbs [Images], AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher [Images], Shaun Pollock [Images], Andre Nel [Images], Makhaya Ntini [Images], Charles Langeveldt, Andrew Hall [Images], Justin Kemp and Ashwell Prince.
Umpires: Billy Doctrove (WI) and Ian Howell (RSA)
Third umpire: Brian Jerling (RSA)
Match referee: Chris Broad (Eng)
Hours of play (IST): 1800 to 2130; 2210 till end of play.
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