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India face Gambhir fitness dilemma

September 21, 2009 16:39 IST

Gautam GambhirThe humiliating loss to New Zealand in their only warm-up game coupled with uncertainty over opener Gautam Gambhir's fitness has marred India's build up to the Champions Trophy which gets underway in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

After staying briefly on top of the ICC rankings and clinching the triangular series in Sri Lanka recently, the Indians were humbled by 103 runs by a side that had lost to a local team in its previous match.

Off the field, nobody knows if Gambhir, who missed Sunday's warm-up tie at Potchefstroom, has really recovered from his groin strain.

It could well be a race against time for the left-hander as India take on Pakistan in their tournament opener in Centurion.

Another topic of concern could be about the striking prowess of pace duo of Ishant Sharma and R P Singh, from whom the side would expect some timely breakthroughs during the tournament.

Besides, choice of the training venue has also added to Indians' worry. They have been put up at Potchefstroom, where conditions are more or less sub-continental.

"It would have been better if were to train in Johannesburg or Centurion," Rahul Dravid has admitted before.

India would be expecting some big knocks from Sachin Tendulkar and Dravid.

Tendulkar is averaging just over 31 against South Africa in one-dayers, from 52 games and has just three hundreds against the Proteas in their backyard.

On the other hand, Dravid has an impressive average of 44.74 in South Africa but is yet to hit a ton. However, his average against South Africa is an eye-popping 51-plus in the latter's den.

Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh's form will also be crucial to the side.

Raina looked good on Sunday before being run-out and even got a nod from skipper Dhoni.

But Yuvraj, despite treating spinner Daniel Vettori with disdain, hitting him all over the park, was all at sea against speedster Shane Bond.

The quicker pitches at Centurion and Wanderers would certainly demand better from both these batsman.

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