India's walking wounded face baptism by fire

India's walking wounded face baptism by fire

Dhonis men have task cut out

India's walking wounded face baptism by fire

On paper, India are the stronger side despite the absence of a few big guns, and they should canter home against an inconsistent and inexperienced West Indian side in the opening Test of the three-match series beginning at Sabina Park on Monday. But scratch the top, you will find a different picture, not a pretty one to be precise.

India have already been without the services of Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh due to injuries, and Murali Vijay and Munaf Patel have joined the list recently.

Vijay suffered a hit on his left index finger while training at nets, though fortunately, x-rays showed no break and he is almost certain to play on the morrow. Munaf has been struggling with an elbow niggle that prevented him from taking part in the last leg of the one-day series. The right-arm pacer also didn’t participate in the nets actively for the last two days, limiting himself to a few throw-downs and turning his arm for a couple of overs.

With Abhimanyu Mithun also not due to land until the first day of the match, India’s options have been reduced. The encouraging news on Vijay should, however, bolster his Tamil Nadu opening mate Abhinav Mukund, who is certain to make his international debut.

Touted as one of the finest young talents around, Mukund, who has been prolific for Tamil Nadu in domestic cricket over the last couple of seasons, will face a different kind of test at Sabina Park. Ground officials say the 22-yard strip will offer a good deal of bounce, and tackling express quicks Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards will not be an easy task. But it will be great opportunity for the youngster to impress the mandarins, and remain within the range of the selectors’ radar.

Virat Kohli has shown supreme consistency over the last year or so, and the Delhi lad is also certain to receive his Test cap on the morrow, in all likelihood ahead of S Badrinath, who might just have fallen behind in the race for a berth in the Test squad after his modest run in the one-dayers.

If Munaf does not recover in time, a third Indian will make his Test debut. Praveen Kumar was impressive during the one-day series, and the Uttar Pradesh medium-pacer will do the new-ball duties with Ishant Sharma. Praveen does not exactly carry the same set of skills as Munaf, but he can be a nagging customer with an uncanny ability to winkle out top-order batsmen.

So, India do have the options to counter any situation, but this West Indian side is not a mere pushover. They have some exciting players in Adrian Barath, who began with a hundred against Australia at their den, Darren Bravo, and the return of Edwards will bolster their bowling.

Edwards has made only sporadic appearances over the last year or so due to injuries, but he has made sufficient recovery evidenced by his lively outing at nets. On a bouncy Sabina Park pitch, the Roach-Edwards combine can give some testing moments to the Indian batsmen, and the visitors will require a healthy effort from the experienced triumvirate of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

With seven Tests to be played over the next couple of months, India will be eager to make a good beginning here, and the unpredictable explosiveness of the West Indies promises a close encounter.

Teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Abhinav Mukund, Murali Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Parthiv Patel, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, S Badrinath.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (capt), Brendon Nash, Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons.
Umpires: Ian Gould (England) and Daryl Harper (Australia). Third umpire: Norman Malcolm.
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand).

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