Sehwag to lead India
"What do you think is a safe total on the subcontinent" a journalist asked Greg Chappell after the high-scoring game at Ahmedabad. The answer came in a trice: "As much as possible."
And so we are at dry, hot and dusty Rajkot, where India have won three out of seven, for another one-day game which may well turn out to be another contest between bat and bat. Of course, the crowds come in to see the ball soar over the sight screen, to see batsmen unfurl their entire array of strokes, to see mammoth totals being erected and then chased. A pitch that can last the distance is "a really good one", the curator who can prepare it has done "a excellent job". And the entire half of the players, calling themselves bowlers and being treated as if they don't need to exist, need to try their best to limit the damage. One wonders how Javagal Srinath might have felt at the end of the World Cup final, when he conceded 87 runs in his 10 overs, to hear that it was a "really good wicket".
Dravid rested, VRV Singh injured
India have decided to rest Rahul Dravid and S Sreesanth for the game while VRV Singh was ruled out with an inversion injury to his left ankle. That left them with a squad of 12 and Greg Chappell said that the Supersub would be named tomorrow morning. Dravid had not taken the field during the second half of the previous game, owing to cramps sustained while batting, and the team-management thought it best to rest him for the game. "He is fit enough to play tomorrow," Chappell added,"but we thought it best to rest him so that he can be ready for the final game". It would also give them an option to continue with their experimentation policy and rotation of players.
Sri Lanka are unlikely to make any changes to the side that won at Ahmedabad and Marvan Atapattu confirmed that Nuwan Zoysa, who had twisted his ankle in that game, was fit to take the field. Farveez Maharoof tasted some success with the ball, after a harrowing time in the first four games, and might be continued to be used as the Supersub.
Take guard, score hundred
"If Sachin sees the pitch, he will be too tempted to play," said Rasik Makhwana, the curator. "He has never scored a hundred here and this will be his best chance to entertain us with a century." The surface had a glassy, polished look about it with no trace of green, no indication of wear, and absolutely no sign of hope for the faster bowlers. "The first half an hour may provide a bit of assistance," said Makhwana with an impish grin, "after that, well ...".
However, none of these held true when, last month, Sourav Ganguly walked out onto the same pitch to begin one of his most important innings, for East Zone in the Duleep Trophy. There was a sporting bounce, movement off the surface and ample assistance for the faster men, a fact that stumped the local press who were accustomed to batsmen feasting on a typical Indian paata wicket. Two weeks on, and normalcy appears to have been restored.
Are you a policeman? Do you like cricket?
Three years back, Virender Sehwag produced an innings of such mayhem that even the security guards were in a daze. Chasing 300 against West Indies, India were bulldozing along at 200 for 1 in the 28th over, thanks to Sehwag's pulverising 82-ball 114, when it began to rain. Not water but bottles as a section of the crowd bombarded the West Indies fielders. And what were the police doing? Watching cricket, dummy. This time, though, the authorities have said that the policemen will not watch the game, but the crowd, and made efforts to hire those not interested in cricket. How they succeeded in finding people to fit that criterion, nobody will know but chaos reigned on the eve of the match with security, fans, pressmen, and administrators blaming each other for the mess.
India (likely) 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Virender Sehwag (capt), 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mohammad Kaif, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), 7 Irfan Pathan, 8 Ajit Agarkar, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Murali Kartik, 11 Rudra Pratap Singh, Supersub: Suresh Raina.
Sri Lanka(likely) 1 Sanath Jayasuriya, 2 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 3 Upul Tharanga, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Marvan Atapattu (capt), 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Russel Arnold, 8 Chaminda Vaas, 9 Dilhara Fernando, 10 Nuwan Zoysa, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan, Supersub: Farveez Maharoof.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo