Sachin Tendulkar will look to make up for missing out in Hyderabad in the second Test in Bangalore. HT/Gurpreet Singh
Two things of concern to India ahead of the second Test starting in Bangalore on Friday are the Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch and the No. 6 slot. However, for the skipper, only the wicket is of immediate concern as it will have to be taken into account while finalising the eleven.
When MS Dhoni was posed a question about the failure of the No. 6, Suresh Raina, by HT, his brief response didn't betray any worry. "It has been just one game since Laxman retired," he said.
"We have to give a fair amount of opportunity to everyone to become a part of the side."
Raina, the one blip in the otherwise impressive win by India in the first Test, should therefore retain his spot as the hosts appear likely to retain the eleven that routed New Zealand in Hyderabad.
In the last Test, even though the last five wickets fell for nothing, India still were too good for the Kiwis. With India due to play at home over the next few months, Dhoni knows no harm will be done if he temporarily maintains status quo. But Dhoni says the tail will be his responsibility and that of the No. 6 batsman.
Despite India's poor show on the Australia Test tour, the No. 6 was becoming productive with Virat Kohli manning it. But Laxman's retirement has seen the Delhi player promoted to No. 5. Coming in at No. 6, Suresh Raina was a failure in Hyderabad and it was left to Dhoni to give the well-set Pujara company.
The tail, however, flopped once the partnership was broken as Dhoni couldn't carry on with them. Dhoni admitted that failure.
"Somebody needs to bat with the tail-enders. You know if the last three or four batsmen contribute, it gets very frustrating for the opponents. That will be my role. No. 6 and I will have to bat with the tail-enders and get as many runs as possible."
The problem needs to be sorted out before the big teams - England and Australia - come to India. It is unlikely to be an issue against New Zealand, who have looked like a club side so far.
Notwithstanding the struggles of their opponents, India's batsmen could face a challenge against the Kiwi seamers as the wicket hasn't dried up due to lack of sunlight and intermittent showers.
Asked whether India could go in with three spinners considering how the Kiwis struggled, Dhoni said, "Have you seen the wicket?!!!"
The wicket still has plenty of moisture. The Indian team had requested the BCCI for tracks that support turn but the weather has put a spanner in the works.
"I think they (NZ) have a good bowling, especially on this kind of wicket in overcast conditions. Hyderabad didn't have that much for the pacers, still their fast bowlers got wickets," Dhoni said.
A thin layer of grass is there but Ross Taylor said, "We are not going to be deceived by it". Meaning, the New Zealand skipper expects it to be shaved off as India are unlikely to press the self-destruct button.
What both teams might pray though is for rain to stay away.