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India sweat on Kumble, Ishant fitness

The Indian strategem decides to wait till the last minute to take a call on skipper Anil Kumble and paceman Ishant Sharma's fitness ahead of the Second Test against SA at Motera.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Ahmedabad
UPDATED ON APR 05, 2008 12:17 PM IST

The Indian think-tank has decided to wait till the last moment to decide whether captain Anil Kumble and Ishant Sharma can play in the second cricket Test against South Africa commencing at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium at Motera tomorrow.

"We have some fitness concerns and want to give some more time. I am feeling much better. A final call (whether he and speedster Sharma will play) will be taken tomorrow morning," said Kumble after a full net session for the team at the venue.

Kumble is fighting a groin niggle sustained in the drawn series opener at Chennai while the gangling Delhi pacer Sharma, who missed the first match, is recovering from toe and bowling finger injuries that he suffered during the one-day tri-series in Australia.

The decision to wait till the morning of the match to decide on his own fitness issue makes him a doubtful starter for the tie.

In case he's not fit, vice captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is all set to make his debut as a Test captain, after leading India in ODIs and Twenty20 internationals, which will add one more feather in his well-adorned cap.

Kumble, who was felicitated at Chennai by the Cricket Board for having grabbed 600 Test wickets, simply brushed aside talks from the South African ranks that swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag was susceptible to short balls.

"I think he's a good enough batsman to deal with it. He scored 319 in the last Test. He's capable of handling it," Kumble said when asked to react to SA coach Micky Arthur's comments to the reporters here yesterday.

"We had a look at Sehwag's fantastic innings. We saw that he played his first pull shot after scoring 312. He cuts the ball very well. We plan to target him with short balls into his body and cramp him for space and see how he takes it," the South African coach said.

Sehwag had dominated the SA attack with his blistering strokes in Chennai to put up his career's second triple century, an Indian record score, in which he struck 43 fours and five sixes off 304 balls. It was also the fastest-ever 300 scored in the long history of the game.

Kumble very curtly told the media not to ask him any questions about the wickets prepared for the match here by curator Dhiraj Parsana.

"I don't want to talk about the pitch. A lot of questions have been asked (in Chennai on this issue)."

The Bangalore stalwart indicated that V V S Laxman would bat up the order which has opened up a bit due to the absence of the injured Sachin Tendulkar.

"He will certainly bat higher up the order," he said.

Kumble sounded pretty confident that his team, whatever be its composition, was good enough to battle it out against the Proteas after the high-scoring draw in the opening match.

"Whatever the combination, we have enough potential and quality. We have plans to put pressure on the South Africans," he emphasised.

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