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Let Zaheer prove his match fitness

Dhoni and the team management must make sure Zak bowls 20 overs flat out before considering him for the Test, writes Sourav Ganguly.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2011 00:38 IST
Sourav Ganguly

India would have left Trent Bridge very disappointed after the second Test. The likes of Dravid and Tendulkar would have thought they had lost only one Test in England in the last 15 years! They have now lost two back-to-back matches, which will be hard to digest.

India have got other disappointing news; Harbhajan Singh tearing an abdominal muscle and Yuvraj Singh nursing a broken finger. India go to Northampton with a lot of problems to solve. It's a two-day game, so there will not be much opportunity for a lot of players, especially the batters. Northants don't boast of a great bowling attack. They have some senior pros, who don't have much future with England. So they will be more interested to turn up for a practice game with families and spend an evening in the bar to get ready for the season rather than give competition to India.

The most important thing India will look to sort out will be Zaheer Khan's fitness. He bowled in the nets and did his fitness work during the second Test but what will matter most is assuring the team that he has regained his bowling fitness. Dhoni and the team management must make sure Zak bowls 20 overs flat out before considering him for the Test. Bowling in the nets and in a match are entirely different things, and Zaheer has a history of breaking down. In 2003 in Melbourne, he wanted to comeback early from a hamstring injury and broke down. So the team management must be careful, and more so Zaheer himself. India have been without their key bowlers in both the Tests and will not want a repeat.

Is Sehwag ready?
They also have to solve the issue of the opening pair. Sehwag will hit the motorway to Northants straightaway and that will be heartening news for the team. The only reason for such encouragement is his Test record. It has to be seen whether the dynamic opener has had enough cricket or whether the Northants game is enough to get him ready for Birmingham. There will be enough grass on the pitch to keep the bowlers in business.

Gambhir will also be back so it will give the top-order a settled look, which might give psychological comfort to number three, four and five. Dravid will be comfortable at three and that will push Laxman to five, which is the right position for him in these conditions. Amit Mishra will walk into the eleven for Harbhajan and might just pose problems to the English batters. India have a week off before the third test and such a break generally brings comfort and relaxation. But two down with two Tests to go, India have a lot of work to do in the next seven days.

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