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Dravid hopes to pass the Windies test

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PICTURE PERFECT: Rahul Dravid has asked his teammates to raise their game a few notches in the match against the West Indies on Thursday.
PICTURE PERFECT: Rahul Dravid has asked his teammates to raise their game a few notches in the match against the West Indies on Thursday.

G. Viswanath

Brian Lara may not play due to back spasm; Chanderpaul to play

Ahmedabad: For the West Indians, it is all about natural ability. Last week, their new crop of seamers bubbled with enthusiasm while shocking the mighty Australians.

Neither skipper Brian Lara's absence on the field in the second half of the contest nor Adam Gilchrist and Michael Clarke's threatening partnership affect their nerves.

This week, Lara revealed on the eve of a key Champions Trophy match against India that he has not satisfactorily recovered from a back ailment and is unlikely to take the field at the Motera here on Thursday.

The West Indies captain felt acute pain after notching up a half-century and raising 137 runs in a match-defining partnership with Runako Morton. Unable to bear the pain, he gifted his wicket to Glenn McGrath.

Responding to the opening question on the state of his health, Lara said: "I am not sure yet if I would play the match. I started training for the first time on Tuesday. I thought the back was a bit sore."

Well placed

"A decision will be taken on Thursday to see if I am fit enough, but even without me we still have 11 players who can do the job. As a team, we are well placed to not worry about one or two individuals,'' Lara said.

"My back has improved a lot over the last five or six days. I had my first outing on Tuesday and it was a strenuous work-out. Things did not look too good. I am not going to deprive the team of a 100 per cent fit Lara. But a correct decision will be taken at the last minute on Thursday,'' he added.

"For the West Indies and me personally, the priority is to win the match and ensure a place in the semifinals. For me, team goals are greater than personal ones,'' Lara said, dropping sufficient hints that Ramnaresh Sarwan may lead the team against India.

For the second successive match, the West Indies may open with Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds. Shivnarine Chanderpaul has recovered from dehydration, but coach Bennett King is down with food poisoning.

Meanwhile, the Indians spent the festival of lights and Ed with their families and assembled here four days ago.

Addressing a press conference, India captain Rahul Dravid acknowledged the improvement made by the West Indies pacemen.

"I saw a fair bit of the Australia-West Indies clash. I think they're bowling well and like I said before, I think the Windies are going through a period where they're playing very good cricket. They seem to have some of their key players in form. I think we are not very far from that.

"There are a couple of areas where we can get better. We can get back to that kind of consistency and performance we showed a little while back. It's just a question of a few more players getting back into the kind of groove they can. The pieces are falling into place,'' Dravid said.

Ready

"We have been preparing well for the last four days. We are ready for the game and we would focus on what we can control. I don't think anyone has cracked it (dew), we are used to it and I have played five or six games. It does play a part and you have to look at ways to counter it,'' said the Indian skipper, adding that he may field the same team that defeated England by four wickets at Jaipur.

The teams (from):India: Rahul Dravid (capt.), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Ramesh Powar, Dinesh Mongia, Rudra Pratap Singh and Mohd. Kaif.

West Indies: Brian Lara (capt.), Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Carlton Baugh, Dwayne Smith, Ian Bradshaw, Jerome Taylor, Fidel Edwards and Runako Morton.

Umpires: Simon Taufel (Australia) and Aleem Dar (Pakistan); Third umpire: Daryl Harper (Australia); Fourth umpire: Amit Saheba (India).

Match Referee: Mike Procter.

Hours of play: 2.30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 6.45 p.m. onwards

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