Indian captain Saurav Ganguly tonight said star batsman Sachin Tendulkar would continue to play at number four in the interest of the team and flayed critics for putting needless pressure on the master blaster by highlighting his rare failures.
'Sachin is a quality player. It's good for the team that he bats at no. 4,' Ganguly told the media after the ICC Champions trophy final against Sri Lanka in which Tendulkar batted one-drop.
The skipper cited Tendulkar's performance in England in the Nat West triangular one-day series also involving Sri Lanka to contend that he fitted into the number four slot very well. "He knows that it's good for the team that he bats at no.4".
Tendulkar, who has over 11,000 runs in his 300 one-dayers, with 33 centuries under his belt, had said two days ago that he would prefer to open the innings, but that he had accepted his allotted position in the middle order in the interest of the team.
'He hasn't expressed the desire to me,' Ganguly said. 'People who put pressure on him should realise that we need to win as a team as well,' Ganguly argued. However, he had a different explanation for why Tendulkar batted at number three today.
He said there was 'some unnecesary pressure' on Tendulkar because he did not get many runs in two previous matches. 'The idea was that he should get some runs when the ball was hard.
'We thought if he got a few boundaries, the pressure would be off him,' Ganguly said, adding that Tendulkar would have batted at the no.3 slot if he had had a chance to bat yesterday.
The match was abandoned due to rain and was replayed today, with the result being the same.
Ganguly was unhappy that detractors of Tendulkar used an occasional failure or two to run down his form, describing it as unnecesary pressure on a man whose record spoke for itself.
'We have to stop picking individuals and making them stars. We need to pick an eleven and back them,' he said.
Regarding the ICC Champions Trophy rule that a rain-affected much should be played afresh on a reserve day, Ganguly felt that carrying over an affected match instead of playing a fresh match from scratch would be better system.
He, however, was happy with the tournament format which was different from the knock out structure of the previous ICC trophy additions. he also described the experiment on expanded use of television technology for aiding umpiring decisions as a 'success'. 'It went pretty well. It didn't delay the game much.'
Ganguly had a word of regret for fast bowler Javagal Srinath, who flew in from England for the final, but had a poor day in the field yesterday. He was left out of the squad for today's match.
'It was unfortunate for Srinath who had less than a day to prepare himself for the final,' the captain said.
He praised all his bowlers, saying Anil Kumble 'was at his best', while Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh were 'outstanding'.
Ganguly said he had decided come down the order to take on the responsibility of playing off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and asked Dinesh Mongia to open to play himself in before facing the spinners.
'I have played him for six or seven years, while the youngsters havn't played him much.'
Jayasuriya said earlier that he had expected Ganguly to come down the order to take on the spinners.
Ganguly said India needed to work on their fast bowling resources, While Sehwag's success as a spinner had given them the option of an extra slow bowler, 'we still want our seamers to do a good job'.
Srinath's decision to make himself avilable for test cicket was 'good news' for the team, and a good development for the team ahead of the series against West Indies, he said.
Jayasuriya said he did not think that Sri Lanka needed an extra batsman to bolster its middle order. He, however, did not think that the present side would form the nucleus of Sri Lanka's World Cup team.
"We need some 20 to 25 players to choose from", he said.