Saturday 20 January 2007 

Tendulkar To Strengthen Indian Middle-Order

India's Sachin Tendulkar will move down the order in Sunday's first one-day international against the West Indies in a bid to strengthen the batting of a side short of confidence after a run of poor results.

The experiment, if successful, is likely to lead to the regular one-day opener playing in the middle order at the World Cup in the Caribbean starting in March.

"We see the middle overs of the World Cup as being the critical part of the equation... who better than our best batman to be able to try and play that role for us," India captain Rahul Dravid told a news conference on Saturday.

India is under tremendous pressure to perform well in the four-match series following a string of poor batting displays, and injured middle-order stalwart Yuvraj Singh's absence since October has added to the side's woes.

Tendulkar has opened in 265 of his 374 one-day internationals and scored 11,731 of his record 14,537 runs from that position, including 37 of his record 40 hundreds.

"(Tendulkar is batting in the middle order because) we are not sure how Yuvraj is going to shape up for us over the next few days," Dravid said.

"It is an option that we need to explore.

"We realise that finding a good middle-order player in the conditions that we are likely to experience in the West Indies is a lot harder than finding someone to open.

"It (batting in the middle-order) is going to be the toughest job in the World Cup, if the wickets are anything like those I saw in the West Indies a few months ago.

"The middle overs --- 15 to 40 --- are going to be critical at the World Cup. We are going to try and get our best players in that position."

GANGULY OPENS

Former captain Saurav Ganguly, who returns to the one-day arena after 16 months on the sidelines, will open with another left-hander Gautam Gambhir on Sunday.

Tendulkar, who began opening regularly in the 1993-94 season and forged formidable partnerships with Ganguly and later Virender Sehwag, has struggled with his form in recent matches.

Dravid is hoping that his key players would use the West Indies series regain their touch.

"We know it is an important series for us and we know if we play good cricket, we will get on a bit of a roll, get a bit of momentum and some good results," the Indian captain said.

West Indies have won six of their past seven meetings with India since last May and team coach Bennett King said his side were looking to maintain their form.

"Our challenge here is to keep our consistency going and make sure we put good games together back-to-back."


© Reuters 2007