India likely to revert to 5-bowler formula

While Pathan gets a look in despite being "low on confidence", off-spinner Harbhajan Singh might have to wait till Saturday to know his fate.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 03:42 IST

India were all set to bring in seamer Irfan Pathan to shore up their bowling attack, weakened further by the injury-induced absence of S Sreesanth, for the second cricket Test against West Indies beginning on Saturday.

Sreesanth, who was in the thick of action in the drawn first cricket Test after being asked to bowl the final over, was ruled out of the match on Thursday due to a sore left heel which the physio said would take at least four days to heal.

Three seamers are part of captain Rahul Dravid's plans for the match and even though he might still play two spinners, Pathan is as good as penciled in.

"It (track) probably would not help our spinners much so we have to see how we can keep the pressure through seamers," Dravid said.

While Pathan gets a look in despite being "low on confidence", off-spinner Harbhajan Singh might have to wait tillSaturday to know his fate after being left out of the scheme of things for the first match at Antigua.

Harbhajan can only make it if the team wants to play with five bowlers, a strategy which India have persisted with largely in the recent months.

The team took a step back in Antigua only because their batting in the preceding one-dayers had been patchy. But now that Wasim Jaffer, Dravid and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have hit the top gear, going with six batsmen appears expansive.

Dravid plans to carry on batting at number four, leaving the spot of number three, where he has struck unimaginable riches, to VVS Laxman.

"With Sachin not around, I want to be with the middle order where it could do with certain more experience. We want to give Laxman an opportunity to bat at a number he feels comfortable at. That's the way it would be in this series," said Dravid.

However, the experience of Dravid in the middle order probably would not be such a crying need if Jaffer continues the form he showed in Antigua.

"His development is a positive for us. But it's important that he is consistent. He looks a lot more mature now. He has all the tools, it's the question if he is consistent," the Indian captain said.

West Indies too would have to fiddle with their bowling combination, injury playing a part here as well.

With Fidel Edwards out, his half-brother Pedro Collins is set to play after a gap of more than a year. West Indies also almost certainly would go for paceman Jerome Taylor at the expense of left-arm spinner Dave Mohammed.

Dravid has a healthy respect for West Indian batting and it starts with Chris Gayle.

"In both the innings of Antigua Test, he showed he can switch gears. That's the sign of a very good player. We probably did not bowl to him well in the first innings but did not allow him much liberty in the second."

The threat of Brian Lara is ever present and with the grass on the pitch most likely to be a misnomer, draw must rate as the most favourite outcome of this Test.

The nets are generally a good indicator of the areas where the team needs more attention. There was serious practice afforded to the slip fielders by coach Greg Chappell, who also spelled out correctives on the generally tentative footwork of the Indian batsmen.

West Indies fast bowlers are generally bowling a restrictive line and Chappell probably felt a bigger stride could act as a counter.

The ground and facilities at this new stadium is a credit to burgeoning facilities in the Caribbean. The lush outfield, Chappell reckons, would be most welcomed by his players.

"The field for the first Test was a bit uneven and hard on the players. They generally felt it on the ankle and around the knees. Their lower limbs were not that good after the last match. But this one is lush and most welcomed by the players," he said.

Teams (from):

West Indies: Chris Gayle, Runako Morton, Daren Ganga, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo, Denesh Ramdin, Pedro Collins, Jerome Taylor, Ian Bradshaw and Corey Collymore.

India: Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel and VRV Singh.

Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pak) and Simon Taufel (Aus)

Third umpire: Steve Bucknor (WI)

First Published: Jun 09, 2006 14:28 IST