December 7, 2000

Can the Zimbabweans turn their fortunes around?

Jodhpur's Barkatullah Khan Stadium, named after a former Rajasthan Chief Minister, becomes India's latest ODI venue on Friday when the hosts take on Zimbabwe in the third of the five match one-day series. Going by the manner in which India shut out their opponents at Ahmedabad, coach John Wright has few worries on his mind. "I think if we continue to play well, the results will take care of themselves. The series is still young. We need to be very positive and ruthless in our attitude. We have the opportunity to win the series here and that is very important", he told reporters at the venue.

Wright did however stress that there was still room for improvement, especially in the bowling and fielding, although the latter department has lifted itself up after the Cuttack off-day. The Indians have been shuffling the fielding positions around in a bid to settle at the best combination and Venkatesh Prasad and Hemang Badani were seen going through an intensive slip catching routine. Skipper Sourav Ganguly confirmed that Ajit Agarkar who missed the last match because of a side strain was fit and available for selection. As usual, Nikhil Chopra and Shiv Sunder Das have been jettisoned from the twelve.

Zimbabwean skipper Heath Streak presented a gloomier picture and could not conceal his disappointment at the way the series had progressed. Indeed it's quite amazing that Zimbabwe, an extremely competitive one-day side, have never beaten India in India after eleven attempts so far - a tie in Indore being the best they've accomplished. The cumulative burden of past failures has seemingly made a heavy dent in their confidence. It only needs one win to turn things around but the Zimbabweans must now be wondering whether it isn't easier to walk the length of the Great Rajasthan Desert than to defeat India at home.

Streak pointed the finger at the bowlers as having let the side down in Ahmedabad and hoped that an improved effort would see them containing India to within 250-260. "The conditions aren't suitable for our kind of bowling. All of us are swing bowlers and there is no margin of error on these wickets. We've given them too many easy scoring opportunities. There are no special remedies other than discipline", he remarked. He said the injury to Guy Whittall which has prevented him from bowling in the series has robbed them of some extra options. "It leaves us with only three seam bowlers and we've had to use some part-time spinners to fill up the overs". A groin injury to Dirk Viljoen has meant there will be at least one change in the side. Batting first and putting runs on the board is probably the key to Zimbabwe's success and Streak admitted that it was going to be an important toss to win.

The wicket is expected to dry out into another beauty which should offer quality entertainment for a maximum of 30,000 spectators who can fill this stadium, constructed entirely with Jodhpuri red stone. The match promises to be an energysapping affair with the heat in this part of Marwar in west Rajasthan being positively oppressive. The ground, which was established in 1986, has held just three first class matches, two in the late eighties and a tour game between the New Zealanders and the Board President's XI in October last year.

The teams:

India (from): Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Hemang Badani, Reetinder Sodhi, Sridharan Sriram, Vijay Dahiya, Sunil Joshi, Ajit Agarkar, Venkatesh Prasad and Zaheer Khan.

Zimbabwe (from): Heath Streak, Alistair Campbell, Douglas Marillier, Stuart Carlisle, Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Guy Whittall, Travis Friend, Brian Murphy, Henry Olonga, Gavin Rennie, Trevor Madondo, Bryan Strang and Mluleki Nkala.

Umpires: CR Mohite and SK Bansal. Third Umpire: S Banerjee.

Playing hours: 9.00 am to 12.30 pm. 1.15 pm to 4.45 pm.