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Dravid harps on bold and positive play

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TOUGH TEST AHEAD: Harbhajan Singh (in pic) and Anil Kumble may figure in the first one-day match against South Africa on Sunday. FILE PHOTO: AP
TOUGH TEST AHEAD: Harbhajan Singh (in pic) and Anil Kumble may figure in the first one-day match against South Africa on Sunday. FILE PHOTO: AP

S. Dinakar

Johannesburg: Rahul Dravid spoke about taking the "bull by its horns." Coach Greg Chappell handled the bowling machine at the indoor nets and Virender Sehwag made an appearance at the nets.

Pushed into a corner, the Indians decided to make a statement during the training session at the Wanderers. Lively pitch and a hungry bunch of South African pacemen await the Indians. The skipper put on a brave front at the press conference ahead of Sunday's day/night ODI at the Wanderers.

Doughty warrior

Dravid is familiar with fire-fighting at the crease. He did not blink when the questions were bounced at him. "We need to show character. We have to be bold and positive," he said.

The weather has not been kind to the Indians. Clouds continued to rule the sky and there were a few spells of rain. The Indian outdoor practice session was disrupted.

The South Africans had outdoor nets earlier in the day, at Centurion, 35 kilometres away. The hosts were vibrant with Jonty Rhodes conducting the fielding drills.

Skipper Graeme Smith admitted that the dynamics of the contest could change if there were frequent interruptions caused by inclement weather.South African manager Goolam Raja spoke about the excellent drainage facility at the Wanderers. "I do not believe rain will disrupt the match fully. We have thunderstorms in these parts. They come and go. Rain does not continue for long periods of time."

No reserve day

The captains will have the Duckworth and Lewis equations in their pockets. In the event of the match being abandoned, there will be no reserve day.

The cricketing weather cleared somewhat for India when Sehwag emerged smiling from the nets. His injured ring finger has made a rather remarkable recovery. The stitches, four of them, have been removed.

The dashing batsman was able to play strokes without much difficulty. But much would depend on how he feels during the night. As Dravid said, Sehwag would also have to undergo a fielding test on Sunday morning.

The pitch at the Wanderers should offer plenty of carry for the pacemen. The hard surface could also assist batsmen in stroke-selection. Dravid said, "If you get used to the bounce and see off the early period, you can actually play your full range of shots on these pitches." The Indians have a major selection issue to resolve whether to go in with both Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble or leave one of the two out.

Best spinner

While Dravid hinted at the possibility of both figuring in the attack, he admitted that India might be forced to leave one of them out in these conditions. "Harbhajan, over the last one and a half years, has been the best spinner in the world in one-day cricket," he said.

He also, significantly, added that bringing Kumble to South Africa was part of a larger plan to get the ace spinner get a feel of the ODI arena ahead of the World Cup in the Caribbean. India is likely to play five bowlers.

The South Africans would have happy memories of the Wanderers. This is where the side successfully chased a world record score of 434 against Australia.

Herschelle Gibbs would remember the match too. His blazing 175 is part of the cricketing lore in these parts.

The South African pace attack can sting. Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock form a contrasting pair of pace and cut, while Andre Nel and Charl Langeveldt can really hurt.

The host also has depth and options in batting, where Justin Kemp can be influential down the order. The Indians will miss the injured Yuvraj Singh in the middle-order and Dravid said M.S. Dhoni might have to don his role down the order.

The Indian pacemen could do some damage too. Here, the return of the experienced Zaheer Khan could make a difference. India might require him to bowl at the death.

Welcome to the Bull Ring.

The teams:

India (from): Rahul Dravid (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Jaffer, Mohammed Kaif, Dinesh Mongia, M. S. Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, S. Sreesanth and Dinesh Karthik.

South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (captain), Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs, Loots Bosman, A.B. de Villiers, Mark Boucher, Boeta Dippenaar, S. Pollock, Andrew Hall, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, M. Ntini, R. Petersen and Andre Nel.

Match Referee: Chris Broad.

Hours of play (IST): 6 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. & 10.10 p.m. till end of the match.

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