Ganguly and Gambhir to open
Rahul Dravid has revealed that India have decided to slot Sachin Tendulkar in the middle order and hinted that the move could be used till the World Cup. He also announced that Sourav Ganguly and Gautam Gambhir will open the batting in the first game of the series, adding that a left-left combination was thought of to counter the West Indies opening bowlers.
In the 12 that have been shortlisted for Nagpur, Joginder Sharma, Robin Uthappa and Rudra Pratap Singh failed to make an appearance. Dravid said that it would be a toss up between playing the extra spinner and the extra batsman for the final spot.
Dravid emphasised the importance that the middle order would have on pitches in the West Indies and felt that India "needed to have their best players" in there. "Sachin will bat in the middle order tomorrow," said Dravid while addressing the media on the eve of the opening game of the four-match series.
"We're not sure how Yuvi [Yuvraj Singh] will shape up for us in the next few days. The middle overs in World Cup will be a critical part of equation and who better to play that role for us than Sachin. Also we had four openers in our squad so we needed to give people chances. Sachin is an option we need to explore in the middle order."
Tendulkar has opened in 265 of his 374 one-dayers and enjoys an imposing average of 48.27 at the top. "We've spoken to Sachin about it and told him the reasons for it," said Dravid when asked about Tendulkar's readiness to drop down the order. "He has agreed to give it a go and understands the importance of it. He knows we need to have a back-up for eventualities [like the injury to Yuvraj] that may crop up before the World Cup."
The decision offsets the much-hyped reunion between Ganguly and Tendulkar at the top, but Dravid detailed the reasons behind the move. "We did look at it opening with Ganguly and Sachin. But we do realise that finding a good middle-order player in West Indies is a lot harder than someone up the order. In one-day cricket, it's harder to bat when ball is older."
India's last trip to the Caribbean was haunted by middle-order lethargy and Dravid referred to it as a vital area. "We have to consider who's the best player who can provide us the creativity between overs 15 and 40. It's probably going to be the toughest job in the World Cup. Make no mistake about it. If the wickets was anything to do with what I saw, it will be crucial. And every team knows that. Our best players need to play in that position."
Was there an option to bat Ganguly in the middle order? "He's had a lot of success as opener and is coming back after a while,' Dravid reasoned. "We thought we'll play him where he's comfortable. The kind of attack West Indies have - the left-armer [Ian Bradshaw] taking it across the right-handers, [Jerome] Taylor bringing it back into you - we thought left-handers will be useful at the top. Pakistan showed that. Some of their left-handers were able to take them down."
Squad: Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Ramesh Powar, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo