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Injury list grows as India seek revival in must-win Test match

cricket Updated: Aug 03, 2010 01:09 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
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Whenever Mahendra Singh Dhoni has led India in Tests - even if only standing in for one game - India has not conceded the series. His enviable record, proudly defended over 27 months since he first took on the captaincy full time, however, is under serious threat.

Sri Lanka's record at home is enough to give the Indians something to think about when the third Test begins in Colombo on Tuesday.

Trailing 1-0, the last thing Dhoni wanted was an addition to the injury list, which has steadily grown longer since the team arrived in Sri Lanka.

But that was exactly what happened, with Gautam Gambhir, who missed the second Test due to a knee injury, being ruled out. Harbhajan Singh, already carrying a side strain, suffered a calf strain while jogging on Sunday evening and is a “doubtful starter,” according to Dhoni.

If Harbhajan, who did not turn up for practice on Sunday and Monday, is ruled out, an already ineffective bowling attack could be converted into a hopeless one with the loss of their most experienced bowler.

Though the off-spinner has had a mediocre series so far, he seemed to be getting into his groove in Sri Lanka's second innings during last week's run feast at the SSC ground.

Despite the Oval track's reputation of helping seamers, with Dhoni making his preference of sticking to a “two-two combination,” leg-spinner Amit Mishra will be Harbhajan's likely replacement rather than reserve pacer Munaf Patel.

While the management is struggling to get four quality bowlers, they also have to deal with a problem of plenty in the batting . Suresh Raina's century on debut has almost put aside Yuvraj Singh's hopes of making an immediate comeback after recovering from a viral fever.

But more than pondering over the No 6 conundrum, the Indian batsmen will have to find a way to deal with Lasith Malinga, who is set to return after missing the second Test. Though Malinga received treatment on his tender knee in the middle of Sri Lanka's practice session, his inclusion in the XI is all but certain unless he wakes up on Tuesday with a stiff knee.

Despite having their backs to the wall, Dhoni will take comfort from history. In the seven series that he has featured in as captain, twice India were in danger of conceding a series going into the last Test. But on both occasions -- against South Africa in 2008 and in February this year -- India managed to register a victory and avoid losing the series.

But both those instances were at home. Will Dhoni and his boys be able to convert the Oval into a home away from home?