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November 16, 2006
Anil Kumble's return to one-day cricket and the pressure it brings on his bowling colleagues will be the focal point of India's day-night tour opener against Rest of South Africa at Willowmore Park in Benoni on Thursday.
Kumble has been reinstated in the one-day side after India's recent poor run in one-dayers. His experience and nagging accuracy have made his fielding travails a minor issue. Suddenly, his World Cup hopes no longer appear just a dream.
Kumble's presence though will not make life any easy for India's other World Cup aspirants. Harbhajan Singh's inevitable presence would further turn the screws on the medium-pacers. Zaheer Khan's return would stir up the pot for the likes of Sreesanth and Munaf Patel, and not to forget Irfan Pathan.
The practice game thus could be instructive in gauging the team's plans ahead of the World Cup. The competition between the medium-pacers would only intensify and only at the end of it would one have a clear picture of the World Cup plans. India would take no chances with its batsmen and all the big guns are most likely to be paraded in the middle.
Everyone, from Sachin Tendulkar to Virender Sehwag to Rahul Dravid, would be keen to hit the ground. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's elevation in the batting order would also be watched with interest.
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