India's aim is No. 1, says Kirsten
Gary Kirsten has said that India's goal in 2009 is to be the No. 1 team in the world. India's coach, who has received praise from many in the Indian team, felt the side's biggest improvement in recent times was the way they prepared for a game.
Following Australia's loss to New Zealand in the second ODI at the MCG, India have moved to second place in the ICC's official ODI rankings. "Getting to No. 1 is the obvious goal for this year," said Kirsten, "but it's not playing too much on our minds. To do that, it's important for the basics to be right. We are just trying to focus on taking it game by game and series by series. The team ethic is great. Everyone is preparing really well for a game and we are moving in the right direction."
Today's was an optional nets session at the R Premadasa, and the attendees included Sachin Tendulkar, L Balaji, Irfan Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja. Tendulkar batted for 45 minutes and was constantly chatting with the bowlers on the correct line to bowl. Venkatesh Prasad, India's bowling coach, spent lots of time with Irfan, primarily working on his length. Tendulkar even bowled to Jadeja and passed some tips now and then to the young allrounder.
Irfan's form has been a concern for India. Given the new ball in the last game - his only appearance on tour so far - Irfan ended up with 3 for 58 from seven overs; his first spell read 5-0-42-1 as Sanath Jayasuriya went after him. India have been using their slow bowlers in the middle overs, retaining the seamers for the Powerplays.
Kirsten had earlier said the lack of an allrounder who bowls seam had forced the team to take that route, and he felt it had been a bit difficult for Irfan as he has been in and out of the team. "I really can't comment after just one game," said Kirsten. "He [Irfan] is working hard in the nets. He has a good work ethic and hopefully will get the rewards for it."
To be the No. 1 team in the world, Kirsten said that India would have to dominate the opposition consistently. It was something that Gautam Gambhir also stressed upon, while talking about the dead-rubber game at this same venue on February 8. "When you playing for your country you can't take any game lightly," he said. "It's going to be a fantastic achievement if we can make it 5-0. You want to be a part of the team which is creating this history.
"You can't just think that you have won the series 4-0 and be complacent for the next game. It doesn't happen with us. When you go onto the field you go to win and not just compete. Great teams are those that carry the momentum forward into every game."
India have won the series and the final match is to be played at the R Premadasa as well.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo