Zaheer's absence wouldn't make difference: Ganguly

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The absence of Zaheer Khan in the upcoming tri-series and Champions Trophy would not make much of a difference, Ganguly said.

Updated: August 25, 2009 09:06 IST
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The absence of Zaheer Khan in the upcoming tri-series and Champions Trophy would not make much of a difference to India's performance in these tournaments, said Sourav Ganguly here on Tuesday.

Talking to reporters after going through Kolkata Knight Riders fitness test under physio Andrew Leipus at Eden Gardens, Ganguly said India won in the West Indies without hard-hitting opener Virender Sehwag and Zaheer himself.

"I know Zaheer (Khan) is ruled out but I am not sure about (Virender) Sehwag. But the duo did not play in the West Indies (one-day series) but we won there (2-1). In fact, Zaheer's absence will give a good opportunity for the youngsters to prove themselves at the big stage," said the former India captain.

Sehwag did not take part in India's training at Feroze Shah Kotla in New Delhi on Monday, even as his teammates including captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni attended a four-hour session under coach Gary Kirsten.

Squads for the tri-series in Sri Lanka and Champions Trophy in South Africa will be announced in Chennai on August 16.

On the ongoing Ashes, Ganguly picked Australia as the hot favourites to win the series after their fightback to level the series 1-1 in the fourth Test at Leeds.

"Going by their momentum, the Aussies have an upper hand to win in Oval. There is news that (Andrew) Flintoff will play the decider in Oval," he said.

Tipped to be reinstated as Kolkata Knight Riders captain in the upcoming 2009-10 season, Ganguly earlier spent about two hours with former Team India physio Leipus who assessed the left-hander's fitness and skill.

Terming it a good exercise ahead of the season, Ganguly said, "We have devised a five- day fitness plus skill test (that began on Monday). This will assess our strength and fitness and we will prepare a programme chart."

"Basically, we want to formulate a system where we are able to get ready for the whole season," said Ganguly, who quit international cricket last year.

Tuesday's exercises in the morning was also attended by Wriddhiman Saha and Bengal off-spinner Sourashish Lahiri who although is not registered on the Knight Riders roster.

Earlier on Monday, Ranadeb Bose, who is registered with Kings XI Punjab, underwent the fitness test on the former India captain's insistence with speculation rife that the Bengal medium-pacer might switch allegiance after his contract gets over in 2010.

Ganguly said they were looking at the future as the duo were also part of Bengal's scheme of things.

"They (Bose and Lahiri) are part of Bengal squad and it's a good opportunity for them to be tested by Leipus before the start of the season."

On their chances of getting into Knight Riders, Ganguly said, "We are looking at future prospect. In fact, if they play, Knight Riders will benefit."

Asked about the availability of the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) players, Ganguly said, "It's still not clear as to whether they can play IPL. We are still waiting the BCCI's decision on it. We will decide after the rules are formulated."

Former Bengal captain Deep Dasgupta and stylish Bengal batsman Manoj Tiwary also met Leipus.

The pre-season training under Leipus and trainer Adrian Le Roux will go on till August 14.

Saurashtra batmsan Cheteshwar Pujara, recovering from an injury, has already joined the camp while Gujarat off-spinner Mohnish Parmar, Mumbai all-rounder Iqbal Abdualla, Anureet Singh, Shoaib Sheikh are expected on Wednesday.

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