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Thursday, December 14, 2000

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Dravid hopes to right records at Rajkot

By G. Viswanath

RAJKOT, DEC. 14. The Santa Cruz airport's departure lounge in Mumbai became the unlikely venue for the Indian team members to be told of their wrongdoings and penalties to be faced. For captain Sourav Ganguly it was nothing short of a kick in the teeth.

The Match Referee Barry Jarman of Australia might not have dealt with the situation hands-on at Kanpur, but he had given sufficient indications that Ganguly had violated the ICC Code of Conduct and that he was going to put him in the dock. Shortly before the plane carried the two teams to this Kutch town on Tuesday evening, Jarman told Ganguly at the airport that he cannot play the fifth and final one-day international of the series. He spoke to Ganguly after he had a word with Vijay Dahiya and Zimbabwe's Bryan Strang.

Ganguly's face became gaunt when Jarman told him of his decision. He dozed off during the short flight, turning down even a snack meal. At the Rajkot airport tarmac he said: ``what can I say. I knew it was coming. But then this has happened in other places, too.''

The former Australian wicketkeeper, Jarman, was determined to punish and discipline Ganguly, who had once before served a one match ban (Kochi) handed out by South African Match Referee Peter van der Merwe after the Test series against Australia two years ago.

After saying that he knew what was coming he said: ``I should not have done it. It happened on the spur of the moment.'' Rahul Dravid who will lead India in Ganguly's absence said, ``It's all an unfortunate happening.''

Dravid becomes captain by default. He was the vice- captain and was in charge on the field on two different occasions, one at Nagpur for a very brief while India struggled to break the partnership between Andrew Flower and Dirk Viljoen and the second time at Motera, taking charge after the fall of the third wicket.

After the team's four hour training session he said: ``I am just filling in for Sourav. It's all unfortunate to him. But at the same time it's an honour to play and lead the country. Even as a player, one always thinks all the time. But now I suppose it's a matter of preparing for the match, consulting Sourav and the coach. The thinking process starts well in advance for the captain.''

When he was told that India's record at the Rajkot Municipal Corporation Ground (RMCG) was not very good, Dravid's firmly answered, ``it's surprising we have won only one match here. We have to set the record straight. The atmosphere is good and there is no reason why we should not win more matches here. The pitch looks full of runs, but again this venue has been traditionally good for batsmen.''

With Ganguly banned India will have new opening pair in Tendulkar and Shridharan Sriram. The latter faced one ball, scored a run and bowled three overs for 17 runs in Kanpur and also made his presence felt in the second one-dayer at Motera by taking three wickets in eight overs. Sriram, reckoned by most as an aggressive batsman, will be keen and eager to banish memories of the poor shots he played in Sharjah. India is virtually down to 13 players, which will make it a simple task of picking a replacement for Ganguly. Logically a batsman must replace a batsman; so Yuveraj Singh, dropped for the previous match, must come in for Ganguly.

He can also be used as a left hand spinner. ``I think we will pick the team on Thursday morning,'' said Dravid, who will rather wait for the Playing XI to be given to him by the selectors in his first match as captain.

After patiently hearing Dravid, coach John Wright, with dark glasses and a wry smile said, ``with due respect to Zimbabwe, the next team coming to these shores is Australia. For me it has been a very valuable time. I have begun to know the players and I suppose the same is with them.

Rajkot has become a jinxed place for Ganguly. Four years ago, Javagal Srinath's big back drive hit his calf muscle even as the Indians were finishing their practice session. Ganguly flew back to Calcutta, only to reappear at the Eden Gardens to play his first Test at his home ground.

India has played five matches here: lost to Australia (1986), lost to West Indies (1988), beat Sri Lanka (1994), lost to South Africa (1996) and lost to New Zealand (1999).

lThe teams (from): India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Sridharan Sriram, Hemang Badani, Yuveraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Aashish Kapoor, Vijay Dahiya, Ajit Agarkar, Venkatesh Prasad, Zaheer Khan, Sunil Joshi, Reetinder Singh Sodhi.

Zimbabwe: Heath Streak (captain), Trevor Madondo, Alistair Campbell, Andrew Flower, Stuart Carlisle, Grant Flower, Guy Whittall, Mlukeki Nkala, Travis Friend, Bryan Strang, Henry Olonga, Douglas Marillier, Brian Murphy, Dirk Viljoen, Gavin Rennie.

Umpires: Messrs V.N. Kulkarni and A.M. Saheba (1st ODI); Third: K. Murali; Fourth: Baldev Sharma; Match Referee: Mr. Barry Jarman.

Hours of play: 9 to 12.30 p.m. and from 1.10 onward.

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