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February 16, 2001

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Balaji Rao, Dinesh Mongia
face the test

All eyes will be on talented leggie Wandavasi Dorakanti Balaji Rao and left-hand batsman Dinesh Mongia when the India 'A' team takes on the mighty Australians in the three-day tour opener at the Vidarbha Cricket Association grounds, in Nagpur, on Saturday.

In the absence of bowling spearhead Anil Kumble, who is recovering after shoulder surgery, Tamil Nadu leggie Balaji Rao will be looking to create an impression on the selectors, while for Punjab batsman Mongia, who has been scoring heavily on the domestic circuit, a good showing against the Australians could well be the turning point in his career.

The Indians, led by V V S Laxman, has Test openers Sadagopan Ramesh and Shiv Sunder Das, with two other youngsters in Mohammed Kaif and Hemang Badani to follow in the middle order.

Former India stumper Nayan Mongia and in-form medium pacer Debasish Mohanty too have a chance to prove their worth along with off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and left arm spinner Rahul Sanghvi.

Delhi left arm medium pacer Ashish Nehra is almost certain to open the bowling with Mohanty, which means youngster Javed Zaman of Assam will have to sit on the sidelines, as the selectors will be keen to watch the three spinners in action.

Aussie skipper Steve Waugh told reporters after net practice on Friday morning that their bowling spearheads -- fast bowler Glenn Mcgrath and leg spinner Shane Warne -- along with middle order batsman Mark Waugh would be rested for the match.

"We want to give everyone a chance to get the feel of the wickets over here and that is why we have left out our three senior players," Waugh said.

Asked his opinion about the India A squad, Waugh said: "It is a good side with a few Indian players and some talented youngsters in it... and it should be a good tour opener for us as well."

Waugh will be looking for runs from the blades of his deputy Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Michael Slater, Damien Martyn, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.

The new ball will be in the hands of Damien Fleming, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz, a formidable combination by any means, while off-spinner Colin Miller will have a vital role to play.

To a query why another leggie Stuart McGill was not considered for the tour of India despite doing well in the Tests against the West Indies, Waugh said, "We can select only 14 players for any tour.

"There is no doubt McGill is a very good leg spinner but after Shane Warne recovered from his injury the selectors thought it right to give Warne a chance.

"We have one more side game against the Ranji champions [Mumbai] at Mumbai before the first Test and I want all the players to get a feel of the heat and the pitch," he said.

However, the response from the spectators is not very encouraging as only 50 per cent of the tickets have been sold, according to a VCA official.

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