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Time to rise and shine, Dravid tells team
Harish Kotian in Mohali
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October 28, 2006 16:59 IST

'Stand up and be counted.' That was skipper Rahul Dravid's [Images] loud and clear message to his boys ahead of the do-or-die encounter against Australia in Mohali on Sunday.

"We haven't had our key batsmen performing in the last few games. Some key batsmen having impressive records need to perform," Dravid said on Saturday.

It was obvious reference to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar [Images], Virender Sehwag [Images], Yuvraj Singh [Images] and Suresh Raina, who all have failed to get going in the last few one-dayers.

The match against world champions Australia is a virtual quarter-final, the winner joining New Zealand [Images], South Africa and West Indies [Images] in the last four of the Champions Trophy.

India made heavy weather while chasing 126 in their opening game against England [Images], and, then, in the second match, posted a modest 223 for 9 on a good batting pitch but went down to the West Indies by four wickets.

Making the task more difficult is the fact that India haven't beaten Australia in a one-day international since January 2004, which is exactly 34 months. Since then they finished on the losing side on five occasions, while rain saved them in one match, in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year.

"In the past we had our key players performing. We had our batsmen scoring hundreds and registering big scores, which was very important. We can discuss a lot about strategies, conditions, toss, but what really matters is performances. You need to stand up and be counted when the situation really matters," Dravid added.

Add that record to the injury woes the team is beset with and the picture appears bleak.

Pacer Ajit Agarkar [Images] was ruled out of the tournament after fracturing in his left thumb during the match against the West Indies. His place in the squad was taken by S Sreesanth [Images], which could actually prove a blessing in disguise for the Indians.

On Saturday morning Yuvraj Singh sustained a freak injury while playing a game of kho-kho ahead of the team's practice session and it is likely that he may miss tomorrow's match.

India have lost 7 of their last 11 matches, out of which two were rained out.

Dravid feels the lean patch is more due to batting failures than anything else.

"The lean patch is because of our batting. Our bowlers have done well. If our batting clicks we can perform well. Our guys are working hard in the nets; it's not that they are casual. We saw some good things in the last game [against the West Indies]. The performances have been slightly better, but not good," he said.

In fact, that point was substantiated in the morning net session. Munaf Patel [Images] seemed on top as he troubled Sachin Tendulkar time and again with his pace and movement. The fast bowler was all over the batting genius and on one occasion hit him bang on the helmet.

With the quality of pacers in their side, Australia is expected to exploit the pitch more than the Indians. But Dravid seems unfazed by the bounce and swing Mohali has offered so far.

"The wickets in Mohali are always pacy and bouncy, so there is nothing new about it. But I think the pitch used for yesterday's match had a bit more of pace and bounce," he added.

He also understands the importance of his contribution as a batsman, having scored 145 runs in the last 10 one-dayers, which includes the 49 against the West Indies in the last match.

"I realise that my runs are important and I get disappointed when I don't score runs. My role in the team is as a batsman first. I have not had much success in the last 10 games, where the team has not done well. On a personal level I want to score runs," he added.

"We need a good performance; we don't need miracles," he reiterated.

Going by the team's recent showing, India needs the latter.

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