Tuesday evening saw high drama at the team hotel here, as the news of Zaheer Khan's being rushed off for an MRI scan to a local hospital filtered through. There were worried faces everywhere, tension writ large as people in Camp India, a few players, officials, the Indian media, roamed around waiting to know what was happening.
Eventually, Zaheer, accompanied by physio John Gloster, walked back into the hotel at 9pm local time. The Indian pacer, who chatted with manager Chetan Chauhan just outside the hotel for a bit, seemed quite distressed — and well he might be. Zaheer, who looked fine while bowling at nets earlier in the day, felt some pain in his landing heel later on — an injury to the same heel had kept him out of the last Test against Pakistan in Bangalore. At this stage, it is not known whether the same injury has been aggravated or it is a fresh one, but in any case, it means problems for India.
The scan report is expected only early Wednesday morning and the team will take a call on who plays then, if Zaheer is not risked.
Coming back to the evening, it was all a little strange. Earlier, the Indian team meeting had been delayed somewhat because of various things that needed thrashing out.
Following that, there was a surprise in store, when it was decided that Virender Sehwag, who had padded up first at nets and had had a long session (indicating he would team up with Wasim Jaffer on the morrow) would probably sit out the Test again.
Kumble had said in the afternoon that Sehwag was looking good in the nets, that he was hitting the ball well and that the team was not worried about his loss of form in the recent past. He also said that the Delhi player's "carefree attitude" was probably something the team could benefit from (the India skipper had earlier said the other batsmen were "too uptight" at the MCG).
So this was a bit of a surprise. By the look of things, Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid are set to get first look at the Aussies again, with nothing much changing with the batting order. Unless there's a last-minute change.
Hopefully though, both Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly — who looked the most comfortable of the bats on display at the MCG — will be at full fitness when they take the field. While Ganguly was laid low by pharyngytis, and is still somewhat under the weather, Tendulkar was getting over a virulent allergic reaction to something in Melbourne, that caused his face to bloat up and become patchy.
The bowling meanwhile, will be new-look if Zaheer will not make it. While Pankaj Singh is unlikely to make the grade, it looks like a toss-up between Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan for Zaheer's spot. Till late night, again, neither apparently knew whether they would be playing.
Interestingly, there was also some talk about going in with three seamers, as this wicket is expected to have more bounce and carry than traditional SCG wickets. If that happens, and you would know that by the time you read this, then that would have been another surprise decision.
The Aussies though, going in with an unchanged XI, would be quite happy with all the uncertainty. They don't really need any advantage but a confused Indian camp gives them a few points even before a single ball has been bowled.