February 9, 2001

Borde non-committal on pitches for Aussie series

The mind games have begun in right earnest. In a CricInfo interview last month, Steve Waugh spoke about Australia's habit of 'intimidating opponents before getting on the park'."We don't mind saying a few things off the field as long as you're not getting carried away. I think there's nothing wrong in saying you think you've got an edge over your opponents as long as you can back it up."

Going by Sourav Ganguly's aggressive posturing at Thursday's press briefing, the Indians are not going to concede any quarter in the verbal exchanges that normally punctuate the run-up to a big series. Ganguly's utter lack of interest in analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the visiting team may also be a pose for it is difficult to credit John Wright with such an insulatory approach. It's certainly heartening though to see an Indian skipper so palpably endowed with confidence in himself and his team.

The chairman of the selection committee Chandu Borde and East Zone selector Ashok Malhotra joined their fellow panel member, TA Sekhar in watching the probables go through a third day of gruelling training at the IIT-Chemplast ground on Friday. On another petrifyingly hot day, the boys knuckled down and went through all their regular drills with an unflagging enthusiasm that bespoke well of Wright's knack of extracting the best out of them.

Talking to reporters, Borde pointed out that the purpose of the camp had been misunderstood. "This is a conditioning camp and not a selection camp". For purposes of selection, Borde indicated he would be glad to consider players from outside the camp who impressed in the run-up to the series. "We have an open mind on this", he said.

Turning to the nature of wickets laid out for the series, the 66-yearold former India captain dismissed newspaper reports, which quoted him as having ordered featherbed pitches for the three Test series, as 'rubbish'. Traditionally teams prepare wickets to suit their strengths but Borde's alleged remarks, now disclaimed, had raised eyebrows since they were designed to suit India's perceived weakness against topnotch bowling. He refused to consent to any preference, even when invited to make the usual banal one in favour of sporting wickets. "I cannot say anything about that until I talk to the captain and coach".

Asked about the role of Geoff Marsh, he said the former Australian coach was not involved in India's preparation for the upcoming series. Marsh, who was present only on the first day of the camp, is currently in the midst of preparing a report for the Board, said Borde. S Venkataraghavan too was not at hand on Friday to offer his expertise to the spin bowlers at the camp as he had been doing for the first two days. Venkat was away in Bombay playing a match for the Cricket Club of India against English club I Zingari, along with two of his colleagues in the spin quartet, Prasanna and Bedi.

Borde also believed the software unveiled with fanfare by the BCCI would add value to the Indian team's preparation, noting that Australia's sweeping database of matches played for the last ten years was one factor in their success. The two other selectors, Madan Lal and Sanjay Jagdale will join their colleagues on the panel in Chennai for the entire duration of the Challenger Series. The camp proceeds for two more days before the day-night Challenger intervenes from February 15. The chairman of selectors said the committee had not appointed any replacement just yet for Sachin Tendulkar as India-B captain.

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