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Under-fire Indian captain under pressure to perform

NEW DELHI, March 5 (AFP) - India's beleaguered cricket captain Sourav Ganguly is looking to regain his batting form when he leads the Board president's team in a three-day match against the touring Australians here from Tuesday.

Ganguly was targeted by the Indian media both for his lacklustre captaincy and poor batting during India's 10-wicket defeat in the first Test against Steve Waugh's men at Bombay last week.

Ganguly, who made just eight in the two innings, himself asked to play in Tuesday's warm-up game to gain useful match practice ahead of the second Test starting at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta next Sunday.

The national selectors, who will pick the squad for the second Test on Wednesday, are keen to see how the elegant left-hander fares against the Australian attack.

Ganguly has already been named captain for the entire series, but his form with the bat could determine the composition of the Indian team for the crucial Test.

A victory for Steve Waugh's men at the Eden Gardens will hand Australia their first series on Indian soil since Bill Lawry's team won in 1969-70.

If Ganguly runs up good form, the selectors may decide to play five bowlers at Calcutta in a bid to level the series.

"Playing five bowlers is an option, but it all depends on how well the batsmen fare," selector Madan Lal said.

"What can the bowlers do if the batsmen don't put up enough runs on the board?"

During India's tour of Australia last season, Ganguly managed just 177 runs at an average of 29.50 from three test matches.

The Calcutta-based Ganguly missed Monday's morning flight to Delhi, forcing him to skip the board team's training session at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground.

The home team also includes leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani, who was not played in the first Test despite being recalled to the national squad after five years.

The Australians took a day off on Monday to visit the Taj Mahal, the famous tourist attraction in nearby Agra.

They will go into the match without first Test hero Adam Gilchrist, who is recovering from a hip injury.

Gilchrist's place behind the stumps will be taken by New South Wales wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, who flies in later on Monday from Sydney.

Both teams will name their playing elevens before the toss on Tuesday.

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