India may go back to old option
Skipper MS Dhoni may have to pick two seamers if the Eden Gardens pitch dictates that; it could mean Harbhajan missing out on playing his 100th Test at his favourite venue. Nilankur Das reports. Bhajji At Edenindia Updated: Dec 18, 2012 13:57 IST
When skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni asked for rank turners in this series, he argued that he wanted to keep the toss out of the equation. He wanted results in every match, and since India could not provide seaming conditions without playing into the opposition's hands, spin-friendly wickets were the only option.
But the Eden strip has come in the way. And on such a pitch, the toss becomes vital. Even Virender Sehwag accepted that on Sunday.Two days before the third Test, the Eden wicket looked like most other pitches that the Cricket Association of Bengal has provided over the past decade. Initially a batting paradise providing slow turn, seamers could also have a say right through provided they can hit the right length. It will begin to assist spinners on the last two days.
Dhoni had a long look at the strip soon after getting out of the massage table, going into India's first training session since the Mumbai humiliation. He kept rubbing his hands on the surface, probably to check the moisture in it.
The skipper, who has played here a lot more than others, would know he might have to change his combination and play two seamers and two spinners.
There came the surprise. Zaheer Khan, R Ashwin and Ashok Dinda were the last group into the batting nets and the Bengal medium-pacer, yet to make his Test debut, had a particularly long session. Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma did not bat.
Neither did Pragyan Ojha, but there isn't much doubt over the selection of the left-arm spinner who was instrumental in India's win in Ahmedabad.
What was in doubt was whether Harbhajan, after an ordinary comeback in Mumbai, would play his 100th Test here.
He has the best figures by a spinner at Eden, scalping 46 wickets in seven matches. But going by current form, Dhoni might prefer Ashwin and Ojha.
The other doubt was Ishant. He did not impress while bowling, suggesting he might not have recovered fully from the ankle injury.
That brightens Dinda's chances of a debut at home. "This is the right time, he is hungry and is in form," said Atal Deb Burman, Dinda's coach. “My only concern is if he gets overawed. He has played for India but Test is a different deal.”
The other player who calls Eden his second home is the Kolkata Knight Riders skipper. Gautam Gambhir hasn't scored a Test century since Chittagong in 2010.
He fought a lone battle in the second innings in Mumbai but would definitely want to get back his form of 2008 and '09 where he scored eight hundreds.
Gambhir did not acknowledge a huge cheer from the decent gathering in the stands as he walked out to bat.
Somewhat uncomfortable initially due to the low bounce in the wicket, he adjusted to play some exquisite shots.
Gambhir looked determined and put in the extra hours taking close in catches. Kolkata has seen first hand what his determination can do. It's time for India now.