December 10, 2001

Sehwag, Srinath and Giles likely to play in Ahmedabad Test

"It looks a good wicket. It's hard but will turn as the match goes on," began Sourav Ganguly at a press conference on the eve of the second Test against England at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad. And the captain's assessment is as good as any when it comes to reading wickets. The state of the wicket has been a source of avid discussion before the start of every game in India. The curator, Nadeem Memon, concurred with the views of the skipper, "It looks full of runs," he said, taking a walk around the strip. So concerns that a crumbling turner would be served up were dismissed very early on.

With the fears about the wicket being brushed aside, the next matter of concern was naturally team composition. "With Javagal Srinath fit again and Virender Sehwag available for selection, I don't think there should be much of a problem in selecting the side," began Ganguly. There was some speculation that India might adopt a horses-for-courses approach and go into the game with three spinners. This too was all but put to rest by Ganguly. "With Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble bowling so well, I really don't feel the need for a third spinner," he explained. "If necessary we have Sachin (Tendulkar) and Sehwag who can both bowl handy spin," he added.

With England capitulating against spin in such dramatic fashion in the first Test at Mohali on a wicket that did not do much for the spinners, one cannot help but agree with the Indian skipper. From all indications, Srinath will replace the injured Bangar and Sehwag will come in for Iqbal Siddiqui while the rest of the playing XI remains the same. On this wicket, the Indian team can hardly be expected to play three seamers, despite Siddiqui's moderate success in his first appearance. "We really need to get the composition of the team right. That's the most important thing," stressed the Indian captain.

The final decision on the composition of the Indian team however, rests with the selectors. And on this count Ganguly has no objections. "That's the way the system is. In home Tests the selectors pick the team. On overseas tours the selectors don't accompany the team and so the captain and coach, in discussion with the vice-captain and manager do the job," observed Ganguly.

If the captain of the home side had one worry, it was the fact that batsmen were making starts and yet did not go on to make the big hundreds. " Rahul (Dravid) and Tendulkar both played well but got out in the eighties. I agree that even 80 is a big score but I really hope people go on to make the hundreds. They are capable of that and more," said Ganguly. What is more worrying however, is the fact that the captain himself has not made a century since 19 Tests ago. "The big scores have been elusive. I realise that and am doing my best to sort it out. It's not a good thing if the captain doesn't score," admitted the Indian captain with candour.

But this Test match is not about the Indians alone. Far from it actually. The position of the Indians is well known. The batsmen and bowlers know exactly what to do in home conditions. England captain Nasser Hussain however stressed the importance of a game plan just yesterday. "It's up to each individual to work out his game plan," said Hussain. The importance of this fact cannot be over-emphasised.

In some ways, the most pressure is on the English batting. With the bowling being nullified by both inexperience and the nature of the conditions, it is the batsmen that need to stand up and be counted. "It's important that the guys that have played in the subcontinent before, myself, Marcus Trescothick and Graham Thorpe make runs," said Hussain. The England skipper however was quick to add that this did not completely take the pressure of the rest of the cricketers. "Mark Ramprakash has made a big hundred against Shane Warne, Craig White has shown that he can play spin well too. They need to put the runs on the board," Hussain added.

England desperately need their batsmen to stick around long enough at the wicket. The primary objective to be achieved in doing so, is staying in the game. Unless the visiting side can do that, there is no way they can put pressure on the hosts. If they do so, then Ashley Giles might just come into the picture. Fit again and expected to play tomorrow, the left-arm spinner is rated very highly by the England camp. But, as Anil Kumble will tell you, coming back from injury is no bed of roses. And Ashley Giles, with just 26 wickets from eight Tests, sure isn't in the league of Kumble (289 wickets from 64 Tests).

Hussain and his camp are then chanting two basic mantras - put runs on the board and bring Giles into the equation. Neither has happened so far on this tour, but they're still hoping that Ahmedabad might turn things around.

The teams:

India (likely): Shiv Sunder Das, +Deep Dasgupta, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, *Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Javagal Srinath, Tinu Yohannan. Connor Williams -12th man.

England: (from): Mark Butcher, Marcus Trescothick, Nasser Hussain, Graham Thorpe, Mark Ramprakash, Craig White, Andrew Flintoff, James Foster, Matthew Hoggard, Richard Dawson, Ashley Giles, Martyn Ball, James Ormond, Michael Vaughan.