What were India’s gains from Leicester?
There were two half-centuries by Gautam Gambhir, six wickets each for Ramesh Powar and Ranadeb Bose, 48 runs by Yuvraj Singh, including a solid 33 in the second innings. Ishant Sharma looked good in patches, especially in the second innings.
That was the tale of the five who sat out of the first two Tests, and will almost certainly sit out of the third too, despite their good show against a strong Sri Lanka A side that included several former first-team players.
Conversely, the failures of Dinesh Karthik, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni, and of leg-spinner Anil Kumble in both innings should cause a bit of anxiety, though not full-scale fear. Kumble, strangely, got just 20 overs to bowl, and looked unthreatening.
The five substitutes must have given Rahul Dravid adequate food for thought — would he like to go in for a fifth bowler at The Oval, or would he stick with Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth, RP Singh and Kumble?
There is a case for bringing in either Bose or Powar, for the Indian attack has looked helpless in patches — on the fourth day at Lord's and Trent Bridge, for instance.
But the fact remains that India have got 40 English wickets in four innings — in alien (though helpful) conditions, bowling out a strong home side in four consecutive innings is something the Indians don’t do too often. That should mean that India would not alter the team for the third Test, and the five who rested at Leicester would return to the XI.
Dravid himself did not get the runs he would have wanted at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, but a good knock against the Lankans, a fine 67 when he was in a dominant mood, suggests that he’s in good touch.
Wasim Jaffer made 48 and 55 in the two innings and that, following his half-centuries at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, would give him cause to be confident. But there’s a concern as well — he would have liked to convert at least one 50 into a century. He certainly would not have liked the way he got out in both innings at Leicester, trying to force the pace by hitting over the infield.
“I need to convert starts into a big one,” Jaffer admitted. “We all know how important The Oval Test is and we’re in the right frame of mind.”
Jaffer said he was happy that they played against another touring side at Leicester, instead of a county, which would likely have rested its best players, like Sussex did at Hove. He said that the ‘A’ teams took these games very seriously, because they had a lot to prove.
“If I had come as an ‘A’ tour player, I would have taken this very seriously,” he said.
Talking about the match, Jaffer said the Indians got a stiffer target to chase than they had expected.
“We thought they would set us a rate of 4.5 or five an over… We would have gone for it,” he said.
“But they set us a higher rate and it was tough. We went for it initially, but later had to play out.”
It was quite jolly in the team bus also — the Indians reached London on Sunday night and had the day off on Monday.
In preparation for the final battle, the team gets down to serious business on Tuesday morning.