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Injuries continue to trouble India
February 10, 2007 15:20 IST
After the washout at the Eden Gardens, India and Sri Lanka go into the second one-day international in Rajkot on Sunday with the home team still grappling with injury worries ahead of the crucial game which gives Virender Sehwag one last chance to push for a World Cup berth.
The three injured players -- Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ajit Agarkar -- who had to sit out of the first match have still not recovered fully and are doubtful starters for the day match at the Madhavrao Scindia stadium.
In view of the injuries, the Indian team management would wait till on Sunday to decide on the playing eleven for the match which is of vital importance to Sehwag and paceman Munaf Patel who need to prove their form and fitness ahead of the World Cup team selection on Monday.
Yuvraj has been down with a back niggle, while Pathan had still not recovered from a sore shoulder. Agarkar, who was down with flu, is still weak though he did take part in the practice session.
"Among the three, Agarkar has a better chance of playing. He bowled a few overs at the nets, but looked a little flat", captain Rahul Dravid said.
It will be a test of character for the out-of-form Sehwag, who was recalled into the team after being dropped for the series against the West Indies, as he gets just one opportunity to impress the selectors who meet in Mumbai on Monday to finalise India's 15-member World Cup squad.
In case Sehwag fails, it would leave the selectors in a dilemma. They would have to make up their minds on whether to take the dashing opener to the World Cup despite his poor form.
The selectors would also keep a close watch on players ridden with injuries as fitness issues has been a major cause of worry for the team lately.
For India, the major plus point in the rained-out tie at Kolkata was the bowling of lanky right arm pacer Munaf, who looked close to his best form after having struggled with an ankle injury for the major part of the South African tour.
Munaf bowled at a good pace and picked up two wickets to impress the team management. The bowler finished with impressive figures of 2 for 25 from seven overs while the other two pacers Zaheer Khan and Shantakumaran Sreesanth were mauled by Sri Lankan opener Sanath Jayasuriya.
Sreesanth continued his wayward ways by conceding 36 from 4.2 overs after his disappointing show in the previous series against the West Indies, which could be a point of concern for the selectors.
If Agarkar is available, he is expected to replace Sreesanth in the bowling attack for tomorrow's tie and then it would pose some interesting questions about the Kerala speedster's selection for the World Cup. However, the indications are that the selectors would retain the fifteen they had chosen for the first two matches.
Interestingly, the only bowler to have taken four wickets at this normally high-scoring venue, left arm pacer Rudra Pratap Singh, is out of the selectors' radar for now.
The new-look Indian opening combination of Sourav Ganguly and Robin Uthappa is set to continue while the Indian middle order looks very formidable with the return to form of Sachin Tendulkar and the solidity of skipper Dravid to weather any kind of storm.
Harbhajan Singh was the lone frontline spinner picked in the Kolkata playing eleven and he could be expected to perform the same role here too on what is expected to be a perfect batting pitch prepared by curator Rasik Makwana.
"The team batting first would score over 300," said the groundsman indicating perhaps that the team which wins the toss is almost certain to bat first as the dew factor is not an issue here with the wicket being covered overnight.
The encounter could also prove the last chance for the out of form Sri Lankan players to make their point to the selectors before the selection for the World Cup.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene, opener Upul Tharanga and their in-form batsmen Kumar Sangakkara would be keen to make amends for their cheap dismissals in Kolkata.
Out of the nine previous ties played at this ground, India have been involved in eight and won half of those clashes, including the last three.
Among the four victories was a comprehensive seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka during their last bilateral series, which the home team clinched with a whopping 6-1 margin.
Dravid has already expressed satisfaction with the way the team is heading in the run-up to the World Cup and a victory here against the Lankans, who are to be in the same Group B in the preliminary phase of the quadrennial event, would be an ideal boost.
"We had very good practice against the West Indies. They are a very good side. They were very successful in the ICC Champions Trophy. And, we did well against them. If this series [against Sri Lanka] also goes well, then it will be a very good preparation for us," Dravid had said before the first ODI at Kolkata.
The security officials have also put in place deterrents to dissuade a packed crowd, normally a very noisy and boisterous one, from indulging in unruly behaviour that tarnished Rajkot's image during a tie against the West Indies when missiles were thrown at the outfielders.
India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, M S Dhoni (w/k), Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Dinesh Karthik, S Sreesanth and Anil Kumble.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara (w/k), Marvan Atapattu, Russell Arnold, Tillekaratne Dilshan, Farvez Maharoof, Upul Chandana, Chamara Silva, Malinga Bandara, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Nuwan Zoysa and Nuwan Kulasekara.
Hours of play (IST): 9 am to 12.30 pm; 1.15 pm till close.
Umpires: Simon Taufel and Suresh Shastri; Third umpire: G A Pratapkumar, Match referee: Alan Hurst.
Sri Lanka in India 2007: The Complete Coverage
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