India may do some experimenting

DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY!: India coach John Wright (left) has a few words of advice for Gautam Gambhir during a workout session in Dhaka on Tuesday. — Photo: N. Balaji

DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY!: India coach John Wright (left) has a few words of advice for Gautam Gambhir during a workout session in Dhaka on Tuesday. — Photo: N. Balaji  

Dhaka April 15. There were sounds of thunder and flashes of lightning, a violent storm swept across, and we saw huge waves dancing over green grass on a dark night. Surreal stuff on a cricket field, isn't it?

The ferocious gust of wind carried the raindrops with it, and the resultant tango between the water and the turf, made spectacular viewing. A `little sea' in the `field of dreams.'

The thunderstorm that followed the South Africa-Bangladesh game on Monday has since given way to typical Dhaka sunshine. The matches could still be on.

If the weather holds good, India's day\night TVS Cup duel against the host on Wednesday might commence on time. The Indians are not likely to be stretched, even if they will be without captain Sourav Ganguly and pace spearhead Zaheer Khan.

With India assured of a place in the final for all practical purposes, Ganguly's sore back can gain much-needed rest, and Virender Sehwag will wear the captain's hat.

It's a rare honour for this simple Delhi cricketer with a rustic background, an entertainer and a player of the masses. A man of few words, he indicated that he would perform the job to the best of his ability, however, Bangladesh might not represent much of a challenge. The heady win over South Africa has meant the morale of the team is high.

It also makes sense to rest left-armer Zaheer Khan, nursing a hamstring strain, especially with India staring at a long gruelling year. He is a key player, and India does need him to be fit and firing.

Zaheer's absence will enable Avishkar Salvi, who impressed on his debut, regain his spot. The more the young Salvi plays at this stage, against any opposition, the better off he would be.

These are the sort of tournaments where a side can afford to experiment, keeping in mind, the stiffer battles in the future, and Parthiv Patel could well open the innings with Gautam Gambhir.

The presence of so many budding cricketers will surely please coach John Wright, a great believer in young talent. He lays a lot of emphasis on fielding and running between the wickets, and these young men are fast on their feet.

A technically sound southpaw, who gets behind the line and plays close to his body, Parthiv will have the time and overs to construct an innings, something that would do his confidence a world of good. Even if he surfaces down the order in the later games, he could be a different customer if he has one sizable innings under his belt.

Gambhir has failed to take his opportunities so far, and the pressure will be on him to deliver on Wednesday. The left-hander can ill-afford to be reckless.

Being such a natural striker of the ball, Sehwag should be at home in any slot. Will the burdens of leadership have any effect on him. Unlikely in a low-key duel.

Mohammed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh have dazzled in this tournament, and the former might have been a touch unlucky too, not being named the vice-captain. But then, Kaif and Yuvraj, both hard-running and hard-working, are team-men, and do come like a whiff of fresh air to the side. Never mind the experience that they have gained over the last three years.

Dinesh Mongia batted with both resolve and freedom the other day, as the South African attack was dismantled. The left-hander did need that half-century.

The neglected Sanjay Bangar is expected to take Sourav Ganguly's place in the line-up, and he is a quiet, committed cricketer, who will perform to the best of his ability.

Ajit Agarkar, who appears to have settled down into a good rhythm in this tournament will slip into the role of the No. 1 paceman, and, Salvi, whose methods do bear a slight resemblance to his much senior Mumbai colleague, will be keen for another crack at the Bangladeshis.

Harbhajan has managed to achieve both turn and bounce on a slow Bangabandhu pitch — the ball `grips' on such a surface suiting the off-spinner. And these are early days yet for young leggie Amit Mishra, who would be delighted if he gets to bowl his 10 overs.

There are also suggestions that Sarandeep Singh and Abhijit Kale may get a look in.

Bangladesh's only hope

The first three encounters have been lop-sided, with the side chasing under the lights finishing way short. Precisely the reason why Bangladesh would hope to win the toss, put up a total of around 200, and hope for the best.

Mohammed Ashraful's half-century at the expense of the Proteas held some promise, while the more experienced Habibul Bashar, the most compact batsman in the line-up, showed glimpses of form.

Skipper Khaled Mahmud, though limited in talent, is a trier, while leg-spinning all-rounder Alok Kapali has a lot more ability. In younger men like Kapali and Tushar Imran, a fluent striker of the ball who was rather hastily dropped from the eleven on Monday, lies Bangladesh's future. Not in old guards.

The host's bowling is heavily dependent on the spin of left-armer Mohammed Rafique and leggie Kapali, and the Indians, even with so many stars missing, should not encounter much of a problem.

But then, the thunderstorm may have other ideas. Who can say about the weather.

The teams:

India (from): Virender Sehwag (Capt.), Gautam Gambhir, Parthiv Patel, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Sanjay Bangar, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Avishkar Salvi, Amit Mishra, Sarandeep Singh and Abhijit Kale.

Bangladesh (from): Khaled Mahmud (Capt.), Javed Omar, Mohammad Ashraful, Habibul Bashar, Akram Khan, Alok Kapali, Tushar Imran, Khaled Mashud, Sanwar Hussain, Mohammed Rafique, Tapash Baishya, Tariq Aziz, Monjurul Islam and Mehrab Hussain.

Umpires: Billy Bowden and Akhtar Uddin. Third umpire: Mahboob Rana. Match Referee: Clive Lloyd.

Hours of play: 1.30 p.m. (IST) to 5 p.m. & 5.45 p.m. onwards.

Recommended for you