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Dravid keen on keeping team focussed

Sanjay Rajan

"We have the players to win matches, but the problem in the last few matches has been the execution of our skills. We have to apply ourselves better"



TIME TO GIVE IT A LIFT: Kumble, Yuvraj and Tendulkar try out their skills at volleyball on the eve of the fifth ODI against Pakistan at Kanpur. - PHOTO: S. SUBRAMANIUM

KANPUR: Rahul Dravid does not allow emotions to influence his decision-making. As a person, too, the Karnataka cricketer is the precise sort.

It was apparent that the stand-in skipper did not want the uncertainty surrounding Sourav Ganguly's ban to distract the team from the task at hand. "We are going into the match without worrying about whether Sourav will play or not. Our idea is to remain focussed and do our job," said Dravid.

Pressure is not new to Dravid. Nor is captaincy for that matter. In fact, the situation in which he finds himself is, in a way, similar to last season, when he led in the latter part of the fifth and deciding ODI after Ganguly was `stretchered' out with a back problem. Ganguly recovered only in time for the final Test on that tour of Pakistan.

Evenly balanced

The six-match Pepsi Cup overs-limit series is balanced evenly — two-all — going into the penultimate game, and the outcome at the Green Park on Friday may decide which of the two teams will be able to seal the series.

You could actually see the disappointment in Dravid's eyes after India failed to defend 315 in the last match. Not exactly the sort to volunteer ideas — always the man who speaks when spoken to — Dravid was fielding at the boundary line for a long period of time in the Ahmedabad game.

"We have the players to win matches, but the problem in the last few matches has been the execution of our skills. We have to apply ourselves better," said Dravid, who scored a century batting at No. 4 in Kochi, and a half-century at No. 5 in Visakhapatnam.

Dravid, who has led in 10 ODIs so far, felt the spinners might have a big role to play on this pitch. "The wicket seems to have lower bounce than in preceding matches.

"If it turns out so, the spinners may be more useful than pacers," he said.

If that is the case, then leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who was drafted in the place of Irfan Pathan for the last two contests, might have a role to play.

Kumble — an asset

Kumble's metronomic accuracy would be an asset, and moreover, he is the sort who runs through his overs.

In whose place to fit him, is the question here. If Dravid opts for two pacemen and two spinners, then it would be a toss up between Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra.

Left-arm spinner Murali Kartik bowled confidently in the last match. It is not clear whether Harbhajan Singh will play. The off-spinner missed the last match owing to a side-strain. He bowled at nets on Thursday.

In his case, there is also the matter of 21-day period to look into, as per the new suspect bowling action procedure.

It may be remembered that Harbhajan was reported for his doosra on the final day (March 20) of the second Test against Pakistan at Kolkata, and has to appear before an ICC-appointed panel within 21 days to take the procedure forward.

The 21-day period comes into effect after the BCCI receives an official communication.

The side's slow over-rates is playing on Dravid's mind. "That is a problem because it is not just the captain but all members of the side who are responsible for it. The bowlers and fielders need to buck up and we hope to work things out soon," he said.

India can finally go into a contest knowing fully well that the top-order has in-form batsmen, which was not the case with Ganguly around. Dravid can return to No. 4, while it does seem that Dinesh Mongia would take Ganguly's place in the XI. Pakistan's vice-captain Younis Khan said his team was on a roll after winning two consecutive matches, and was intent on sealing the series. "I think we peaked at the right time," said the middle-order bat, who missed the first two clashes.

"Our team has found the right balance, and our openers Salman Butt and Shahid Afridi are giving us the right starts," said Younis. "We will play hard. Then again, one-day cricket is all about who plays well on the given day," Younis concluded.

The teams (from):

India: V. Sehwag, S. Tendulkar, R. Dravid (captain), Yuvraj Singh, M. Kaif, D. Mongia, M. Dhoni (wicketkeeper), A. Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, M. Kartik, A. Nehra, A. Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, L. Balaji & S. Sriram.

Pakistan: S. Butt, K. Akmal (wicketkeeper), S. Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Y. Youhana, A. Razzaq, S. Afridi, Naved-ul-Hasan, M. Sami, A. Khan, A. Kamal, M. Hafeez, S. Nazir, D. Kaneria, Iftikhar Anjum & Younis Khan.

Umpires: R. Koertzen & K. Hariharan. Third umpire: I. Shivram. Match referee: C. Broad.

Hours of play: 9 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. & 1.15 p.m. to 4.45 p.m.

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