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Journeymen to the fore as Zak, Bhajji miss out

cricket Updated: Feb 19, 2010 23:19 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
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Losing either Zaheer Khan or Harbhajan Singh is quite a blow. Imagine what the Indian attack is up against when they enter into combat against South Africa in the ODI arena without both their ODI spearheads.

While Zaheer's ability to get early breakthroughs is invaluable, the feisty off-spinner keeps things tight in the middle overs. Add to it the role Khan plays as a guide to younger bowlers, and his absence becomes even more telling.

As if their absence wasn't bad enough, the replacements, who have to pick up the slack in their absence, aren't in the best possible space. A couple are returning from injury, and others are just finding their feet at this level. A quick look at the line-up is revealing:

Ashish Nehra
The left-arm pacer hasn't put a foot wrong since his return last year. He has bowled well and had been injury free until the recent tri-series in Bangladesh, where he limped off the field in the final after bowling just one over.
In the last three series (at home, against Australia and Sri Lanka and a tri-series in Bangladesh), he has been amongst wickets, but has been on the expensive side, with an economy rate of over six.
That, however, is understandable to a point, as he bowls in powerplays and the death. He will need to stay fit and bowl at his best to keep the attack sharp and incisive.

As always, he will either make you tear your hair out in frustration or gape in admiration. He wasn't anywhere near his best in Bangladesh, leaking almost seven runs per over. Worse, he's also returning from an injury and might struggle to find his rhythm immediately.
Praveen Kumar
The right-arm medium pacer could be more than handful with the new ball in helpful conditions. However, his medium pace could get easy to handle once the ball gets older and there's isn't much movement off the track. Besides, he's coming off pretty ordinary outings against the Australians and the Sri Lankans. He will need to put in a huge effort to measure up.

Amit Mishra
The leg spinner will be in high spirits after his showing at the Eden Gardens. Nevertheless, he's relatively inexperienced in the shorter format, with just seven ODIs under his belt. Besides his inexperience, the leg spinner could get into trouble with his slowness in the air and lack of assistance from generally unresponsive ODI tracks.

Ravindra Jadeja
Quite surprisingly, he has been one of the most consistent bowlers in the last three series. He has not only been economical, but has picked up wickets at crucial stages. India need him to keep this up.

Sudeep Tyagi, Abhishek Nayar and debutant R Ashiwn are other bowling options. While Tyagi is untested, Nayar is unlikely to ask too many questions with his gentle medium pace. As for Ashiwn, the offie has been steady on the domestic circuit, it's what he does here that will reveal his actual worth.