With the Indians resuming training with bat and ball after four days and the West Indians scheduled to reassemble here on Monday evening for the third Test, the focus is set to shift to cricket after a brief period of lull. It has been a welcome break for the Indians, who practically had no time to rest since the first ODI in Kingston on June 17. There was just a four-day gap between the last ODI and the Test series during which the visitors travelled to Antigua from Trinidad and also played a two-day practice match.
This period of inactivity has made way for some speculation on two fronts. The selection of the Indian XI for the third Test starting on June 22 is one and the nature of the pitch for the first-ever Test to be held here is another.
For starters, there are whispers that Rahul Dravid’s team would change tactic and go in with five specialist bowlers after missing victory narrowly in the two Tests. This, obviously, points to the inclusion of Harbhajan Singh in place of one batsman — VVS Laxman, as the grapevine has it.
The other speculation that the hosts have finally succeeded in their plea for a pitch, which would assist fast bowlers, with some grass cover to help lateral movement can be trusted. Importing ICC pitch curator Andy Atkinson at the behest of local organisers lends credence to this view.
While not much can argued over the pitch issue, the Indian school of thought which favours the inclusion of a fifth bowler can still make way for an interesting debate. Who is the fifth bowler being referred to, given that the visitors have failed to properly use even the fourth one in the first two Tests?
It has to be Harbhajan unless the think-tank goes gaga over pace and brings in S Sreesanth. In either case, it must be remembered that Anil Kumble has bowled 134 of the 398 overs India have bowled in this series with Vikram Rajvir Singh getting just 47 in four innings.
If not anything else, this shows that the team has not found it suitable to distribute evenly the load among the bowlers. Then how it handles the situation after having another one with Virender Sehwag available as an option is a question worth asking.
Very few teams in the world including Australia can afford to have five bowlers unless they have an all-rounder like Andrew Flintoff or Jacques Kallis or they have supreme confidence in their batting abilities. India have topped 500 twice in succession, but they were also bowled out for less than 250 in the innings before these.
Any team trying to play safe in an away series would go in with some additional cover in batting which the Indians did in the first two Tests. Having sniffed and still missed victory narrowly, they are definitely being tempted to try something different.
In all probability, this is the toughest question India are facing on this tour and the outcome of this Caribbean trip will also depend on how they answer this.