Fit Munaf offers problem of plenty

Fit Munaf offers problem of plenty

India likely to play three pacemen on bouncy Bridgetown track; Windies may recall Roach

Fit Munaf offers problem of plenty

The Baroda pacer left Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman nodding in appreciation after beating the experienced campaigners a few times, and the Simons-Dhoni duo too looked impressed. From an Indian angle, it might have been the most significant moment before the second Test against the West Indies, beginning at the Kensington Oval on Tuesday.

Munaf’s fitness was the lone missing link ahead of the first Test last week, forcing the Indians to hand a Test cap to Praveen Kumar. The Uttar Pradesh medium-pacer exploited the opportunity to return with a six-wicket haul, and now the Indians have all their options available with Munaf recovering sufficiently from an elbow niggle.

The pitch here calls out for the use of three seamers, and the West Indies are almost certain to include Kemar Roach in their line-up along with Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul. Munaf doesn’t have the express pace of Roach, but he’s in a different league in terms of cleverness and variations.

If predictions go right, the Kensington pitch will offer a lot of bounce and Munaf could be more than handful on such tracks and can ask tough questions to an inexperienced West Indian line-up, which might be contemplating the inclusion of Marlon Samuels to add a little more meat to the middle-order that looked so anaemic in Kingston.

Milestone

The bounce here will also be helpful to Harbhajan Singh, four shy of 400 Test wickets, and the approaching milestone will definitely add a spring to the off-spinner’s steps. So, in th bowling department, India look well and truly on track ahead of the second Test but strangely, their batting appears a bit vulnerable.

It has nothing to do with the absence of big names like Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar as the batsmen who have come in their place are quite classy. But some of them looked a bit shaky against the extra pace and bounce of Edwards, and it will be interesting to see how they deal with a three-pronged pace attack, should the hosts field one.

India’s batting problems start from the top as openers M Vijay and newcomer Abhinav Mukund couldn’t capitalise on a great chance to impress the bigwigs. To be fair to Mukund, who made his international debut at Sabina Park, he looked composed in the second innings, but he needs to stay on for longer periods as such opportunities will not come his always.

Vijay has loads of talent but he needs to tighten up his act and bat with lot more patience. Vijay need not to look too far for inspiration as he has Dravid in the Indian dressing room. The veteran of 151 Tests offered a study class in how to utilise his chance with a superb hundred at Sabina Park.

West Indian skipper Darren Sammy had dropped him on six, and Dravid went on to compile a hundred that proved decisive in the outcome of the match, helping India to lead the three-match series 1-0. Dravid’s innings and approach should also work as a lesson to Virat Kohli.

The success in one-dayers and T20s has made Kohli an automatic choice for the Tests, but he did little in the first Test to justify his abundant talent, perishing cheaply in both innings.

But Kohli has shown a will to learn and improve in recent times, and hopefully the Delhi lad has learned from his mistakes. But despite those few iffy points in batting, India remain the team to beat.

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, Abhimanyu Mithun.

West Indies: Darren Sammy (capt), Kirk Edwards, Adrian Barath, Carlton Baugh, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons.

Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pakistan) and Ian Gould (England). Third umpire: Norman Malcolm. Match referee: Jeoff Crowe (New Zealand).

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