India may stick to winning eleven
Opinion within the team is to stick to the winning combination of Johannesburg.Updated: Dec 25, 2006 15:18 IST
Buoyed by their historic victory in the first Test, India will look to continue the momentum by fielding an unchanged side in the second cricket Test against South Africa beginning at the Kingsmead ground on Tuesday.
With India struggling at the top of the order, speculation was rife that opener Gautam Gambhir, who impressed in the practice game, would come in place of Wasim Jaffer while fit-again seamer Munaf Patel could replace VRV Singh.
But opinion within the team is to stick with the same combination which earned them the victory at the Wanderers to build on their 1-0 advantage.
Gambhir looked good in the two-day game against Kwazulu-Natal Eleven but the team management may not attach much value to runs made against a sub-standard attack.
On the other hand, Jaffer might have had miserable last eight outings, but he nevertheless hit a double century only four Tests ago in the West Indies.
Jaffer's monumental double century in the first Test in Antigua is cited as reason enough to persist with the opener.
Patel has been of great value to Indian team in the last 12 months, both in Tests and one-dayers, but the team would be averse to risk him in a pressure-cooker atmosphere at the Kingsmead, more so when they would be fielding only four bowlers.
Coach Greg Chappell has already said he would not risk Patel unless the Baroda paceman was 100 per cent fit after his ankle injury. He also expressed satisfaction with the bowling attack, which was instrumental in winning the first match.
"I was quite happy with our attack (at the Wanderers) and if we do have to go in with that same attack, I am not going to be too disappointed (by not playing Munaf). If Munaf is fit and ready, he would certainly be under consideration," Chappell said.
Another concern was Virender Sehwag who, despite his double century in Pakistan and a massive 180 against the West Indies in this calendar year, has largely been a failure in recent times.
This year has been a bad one for the Delhi dasher who has managed 783 runs from 11 Tests at 43.50 average but from 19 innings, he has only two centuries and two half-centuries to show.
His graph has steadily fallen in recent times, to the extent, that now he is struggling to hold his place in the side.
South Africa is no less plagued by selection worries and both the batting and bowling needs fine-tuning.
Jacques Rudolph is the only batsman who could sense an opening in the line-up but indications are the hosts could opt for multi-dimensional talent of Andrew Hall.
South Africans feel themselves under the pump till they restore the balance.
However, the fact that they did not go for match experience in the last few days was seen as a sign of complacency whereas Indians, despite being one-up, opted for a two-day practice game.
The pitch at the Kingsmead is sure to offer pacemen bounce but sideways movement does not look a feasibility. However, if it is humid, as Durban could generally be, and overcast, the pitch could ally with swing bowlers.
The forecast for the game is generally good although on most days it would be cloudy. The first day could see a bit of rain interruption.
India: Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan, VRV Singh.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs, Ashwell Prince, Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel, Morne Morkel, Paul Harris and Andrew Hall.
Umpires: Mark Benson (Eng) and Asad Rauf (Pakistan)
Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka)
Hours of play (IST):1.30 to 3.30 pm, 4.10 to 6.10 pm, 6.30 to 8.30 pm.
First Published: Dec 25, 2006 02:18 IST