October 19, 2000

The bowling will be Ganguly's concern

The Indians after a brief sojourn home are in Sharjah to play in the Coca-Cola Trophy. While it was a case of "so near yet so far" at Nairobi recently when the Kiwis snatched away the ICC Trophy, the Indians would hope to win the championship at Sharjah. This may well turn out to be the last one-day tournament for Anshuman Gaekwad as the coach of the Indian team since the BCCI has decided to appoint a foreign coach in the near future. As such Gaekwad would want bow out of the scene on a successful note. Who knows, he may still have the chance to be with the team in the capacity of an assistant coach.

Sourav Ganguly has had a great time with the bat at Nairobi and for the sake of the team he has to carry on in the same vein. His partner Sachin Tendulkar is short of runs by his standards and Sharjah has seen him play some outstanding knocks. These two have a big impact on the team not only for their batting but also for their strategic inputs. Dravid is yet to peak and this will be as good a time as any for him to play at his best.

It is the bowling department, which will be of concern for Ganguly, as the bowlers have not performed well enough at crucial times. It is about time that he showed some confidence in Robin Singh as a bowler. Any bowler needs to know that he has the confidence of his captain for him to perform. Robin can bring his experience into play, as he is a seasoned campaigner. One should remember that Robin is the only allrounder in the side and reducing him to a batsman may prove to be dicey for him in the long run.

The extra flavour may be lacking in this particular episode at Sharjah since Pakistan is not participating but Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe are capable of providing some exciting stuff. Sri Lanka, after their defeat against Pakistan at Nairobi, would be even more determined to make amends and they have the potential to win the trophy. If current form is any indication, there is every possibility of Sri Lanka playing India in the final. Zimbabwe, the other country in the tournament, is in the re-building process and it is a depleted side with their star performers having quit the stage. They have to play out of their skins if they have to qualify for the final. Carl Rackemann, the former Australian speedster is the coach for Zimbabwe and it remains to be seen if he can do what Whatmore did for Sri Lanka.

All the three teams rely on their batting since their attack cannot be compared to that of either the Australians or South Africans. The pitch at Sharjah is bound to be batsmen friendly and it may get slower as the tournament goes into its final stages. Such being the conditions, one can expect the matches to be tall scoring. There are some very entertaining batsmen in all the sides with Ganguly, Tendulkar, Jayasuriya, Gunawardena, and Alistair Campbell along with Andy Flower making up the top drawer. They have to fire on all cylinders as they carry the fortunes of their sides on their shoulders. The bowlers' union would obviously expect that this does not happen and understandably so.

Coming to the bowlers, Vaas, Zoysa, Zaheer Khan and Heath Streak would be expected to effect early breakthroughs for their respective sides. Zaheer Kahan, the MRF Pace Foundation product, should be looking to learn the ropes rather than try and blast the batsmen with pace. The first three bowlers mentioned are all left arm seamers, which makes them awkward customers. Olonga, the unpredictable Zimbabwean medium pacer, will be interesting to watch as he has bowled some incisive spells in the past. Like Agarkar, there is no middle path with Olonga as he either concedes runs or gets quick wickets. Muthiah Muralitharan and Anil Kumble, the two leading spinners will hog the limelight, as they are the most successful bowlers playing in this tournament.

Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe have always been known for their high standard fielding over the years. India, on the other hand has excelled in this department to everyone's surprise at Nairobi. To sum it up, it will be an entertaining tournament for the followers of the game and it would be only fair to expect India to win the tournament if they play in the same manner as they did in Nairobi. In case they triumph the most delighted person would be their coach, Anshuman Gaekwad. It is sad in a way that Gaekwad is in a very strange situation for he took up the job in not so pleasant circumstances.