After warm-up loss, India face Gambhir fitness dilemma

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Uncertainty over opener Gautam Gambhir's fitness has marred India's build up to the Champions Trophy which gets underway on Tuesday.

Updated: September 21, 2009 12:39 IST
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The 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 here on Tuesday.

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

Off the field, nobody has an answer 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.

So would be the concern about the striking prowess of pace duo of Ishant Sharma and RP Singh, from whom the side would expect some timely breakthrough during the tournament.

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

"It would have been better if we were to train in Johannesburg or Centurion," star batsman Rahul Dravid has admitted already. 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 own backyard.

On the other hand, Dravid is averaging an impressive 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 night before being run-out and even got a nod from skipper Dhoni.

But Yuvraj, despite one of the most sumptuous of sixes against spinner Daniel Vettori, appeared at sea against speedy Shane Bond. The quicker pitches at Centurion and Wanderers would certainly keep these two young guns pre-occupied.

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