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Sight Screen

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ayaz on the team composition

What 'team composition' -- all the talk during these hours leading into the first Test is will HE play or won't he? The only way you can tell is if Dravid talks -- and he is not. 'We know what team we want to play' is all the captain has said -- understandably so, since it is not in the team's interests to let the opposition know what the thinking is, and a team list can be quite revealing of planned strategy.
So everyone is left, as Ayaz is here, to extrapolate from visible, and not so readily visible, signs.
More grist to the rumour mill about Ganguly’s inclusion comes from the fact that a couple of his staunchest critics have turned benign over the last couple of days. A chastened Raj Singh Dungarpur has been able to keep his emotions in check and dwell instead on what a ‘wonderful player on the off-side the left-hander’ is. Greg Chappell, meanwhile, has harped on Ganguly’s role as mentor. So, has something been brewing?
At the post-practice press conference, skipper Dravid chose to be characteristically solemn in delivery and uncharacteristically enigmatic in content. “We know what team we want to play,” he said, while refusing to disclose the final composition, sparking off widespread speculation in the media, the Pakistan dressing room and, one suspects, even his own.
But professional face readers would not have failed to see the furrows of worry on the foreheads of young Yuvraj, and especially Jaffer and Gambhir, at the manner in which net practice had progressed earlier.
None of them got an extended run with the bat; Ganguly not only got that, but also spent a good half-hour against the bowling machine calibrated to the speed at which Shoaib Akhtar is known to hurl the cherry in his current good form.

You know what, unless the conditions on the morning of the game create sufficient reason for a rethink, India will play two spin two pace; Zaheer Khan will likely get the nod ahead of Ajit Agarkar, and Sourav Ganguly will replace Gautam Gambhir to give India a lineup that reads in batting order Sehwag, Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. With just four bowlers, India has a logistical problem in that the faster bowlers need to be conserved for attacking bursts -- asking each of them to bowl 20-25 overs in a day will reduce them to stock roles.
To solve this, the team will likely use in rota Sourav, Yuvraj and Sehwag to play the stock role, keeping one end down while the attacking regular bowler, spin or seam, is used at the other end -- especially in the second hour after lunch, and the first after tea, when conditions are best for batting and tightening the game down is the logical gameplan.
How do I know? I read the leaves at the bottom of my tea cup. What the hell, works just as well as watching a furrow on a brow. :-)


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