All those who were worried that India may play three spinners at the Ferozeshah Kotla and go into the third Test a batsman short can rest easy. The team is harbouring no such thoughts. If Anil Kumble is fully fit — and there's every sign that he is — he will play, and Amit Mishra will sit out. Before you start crying foul about how unfair this is to the man who took seven wickets on debut in Mohali, sit back and think about it clearly. If you had to choose between Kumble and Mishra, honestly, what would you do?<b1>
Well, that's what the team will do as well, not just because of Kumble's record at this ground (55 wickets in 6 matches at 15.41) or because he is the captain, but because that is the only logical decision to arrive at.
And there was still a sliver of a chance for Mishra, with Harbhajan Singh picking up a toe injury during the Mohali Test. While the off-spinner has made steady progress and the team seemed convinced he would be fit by Wednesday, if Harbhajan was still struggling then Mishra might just keep his place. Not long ago Mishra was left out of the India A team because it already had Piyush Chawla and the think-tank did not see it fit to play two leg-spinners. How ironic it would be if it should come to that at the national level.
But the Indians will not be especially worried about the exact details of team composition and they will care less about what the Australian camp is doing. If you look at the results India have had at this ground over the last 21 years, you will know why. India have won their last seven Tests at the Kotla, and the heroes have been varied. Vinod Kambli (1993), Nayan Mongia (1996), Kumble (1999, 2002, 2007), Javagal Srinath (2000), Harbhajan (2005) have all won games for India. If one man has dominated, it is Kumble, but that is statistically true of most grounds in India.
Cricket matches are not only about statistics, though, or you would not need coaches, merely number crunchers. India go into the Delhi Test with a distinct advantage in every department. Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma have comfortably outbowled their counterparts. Australia's slow bowler has not embarrassed himself, but Cameron White can barely claim to have impacted the game. In the batting stakes, India have completely eclipsed the Australians.
The starts that the team has got from Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, one hungry for domination and the other even more hungry for runs, has made the life of the middle-order that much easier. Sachin Tendulkar has put Brian Lara's record behind him, Rahul Dravid is in the right frame of mind, Sourav Ganguly running like the engine is perfectly fine-tuned. Add to that the fact that VVS Laxman is due for a big score and everything points to hard work for the Australians.
It's not so much that India have the home advantage but that they have the variety and depth to deal with the variety of situations they may come up against. The tone of the Australians has changed from one of outright cockiness to subdued respect. They are so used to dictating terms, or at the very least controlling the flow of play, that the situation they find themselves in will be alien to some of the players. Ricky Ponting will lead the fightback in the pluck stakes, but it isn't any more a matter of turning up and lording it over the opposition. There's still plenty of time to go before the first ball is bowled, and anything can happen when the game gets under way, but if you wanted to look for someone with a light heart, enjoying a good night's sleep, make your way to the Indian camp. The Australians will not rest easy at the moment.