|Player:||SR Tendulkar, RS Dravid, SC Ganguly, G Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, J Sharma, RP Singh, RV Uthappa|
|Event:||West Indies in India 2006/07|
DateLine: 21st January 2007
Sachin Tendulkar, who has scored the majority of his ODI centuries as an opener, was on Saturday relieved of the responsibility, a move which skipper Rahul Dravid said was aimed at strengthening the middle order with the World Cup in mind.
Tendulkar will bat down the order while former skipper Sourav Ganguly and Gautam Gambhir will launch the innings in the opening match of the ODI series against the West Indies in Nagpur on Sunday.
Dravid said with Yuvraj Singh, who tore his knee ligament during the Champions Trophy in October-November, still on the recovery path, the team needed to test the options available before the World Cup in March-April in the Caribbean.
"Tomorrow Sachin will bat in the middle order the reason being that we are not sure of how Yuvraj Singh is going to shape up for us over the next few days. The signs are good and hopefully Yuvraj will be back," Dravid said at the match-eve media conference at the VCA stadium.
"He (Tendulkar) understands the importance of it and the reasons why we are trying to do this for a few games, just to have a backup in case certain eventualities might occur leading into the World Cup," the skipper said.
Tendulkar has scored 11,731 out of his record 14,537 runs, including 37 of his 40 centuries in 374 ODIs, as an opener. Dravid said that the team's best batsman had to be tried out in the middle overs, which would be crucial to its fortunes in the quadrennial event.
"Having played in the West Indies and seen the wickets there, we see the middle overs in the World Cup being a critical part of the equations, and who better than our best batsman to try and play that role for us," said Dravid. "It's an option we need to explore and we feel it's an important part of the game for us. We do realise that finding a good sort of middle order player in the conditions that we are likely to find in the West Indies is a lot harder than finding someone up the order."
While Ganguly, returning to the side after a gap of more than 15 months, and Gambhir will form an all-leftie opening combination in Sunday’s tie, the team might have a look at other options in the coming matches.
"We also have four openers in the squad and we need to give some opportunities to a couple of the other guys," Dravid said.
India also host Sri Lanka in four one-dayers following the Windies series.
Dravid said that the 12 for Sunday’s match had been decided and all-rounder Joginder Sharma, left arm seamer Rudra Pratap Singh and opener Robin Uthappa had been left out.
"We will decide on the eleven tomorrow, whether to play an extra spinner or not," he said.
On Yuvraj's fitness, Dravid said that a clear picture would emerge only after the Punjab batsman has played a few competitive matches.
"We are very happy with what happened over the last few days. He's playing some Twenty20 matches but only after he's played some 50 over games, maybe in the next series, will we have some clear idea."