Injuries dampen Indian joy in Bangla

Cricket: Test series: Dhonis men need to regroup fast against SA
Last Updated 28 January 2010, 17:56 IST

It’s a strange situation. India won the series comprehensively 2-0 despite the pockets of brave resistance from Bangl-adesh. But they lost four frontline players to injuries ahead of an important series against South Africa, beginning with the first Test at Nagpur on Feb 6.

“The injuries are a worrying factor, and I hope a few of them will be fit before the South Africa series,” Indian skipper MS Dhoni said.

His anxiety is not without a base either. Against a bowling line-up that features two super quicks, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, it is unthinkable India taking the field without Rahul Dravid. But it has become a reality now. Shahadat Hossain’s bouncer not only injured Dravid’s upper jaw, but the nasty ball also wounded India’s chances of reducing the firepower of the South African pacers.

VVS Laxman is almost certain to be fit, one piece of good news for the beleaguered Indians. Yuvraj Singh may not be the best equipped batsman to face the pace and bounce of Steyn and Morkel, but he can produce some quick runs that might have proved handy in a situation when India want to declare their innings quickly. But a torn cartilage in his left hand has ruled the Punjab batsman out of the Test series.

A hamstring injury has sidelined pacer S Sreesanth as well, and India will have to depend upon Zaheer Khan and a rejuvenated Ishant Sharma to check a powerful South African batting line-up that includes Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy.
Zaheer and Ishant will have two rookies – A Mithun and Sudeep Tyagi – for company, but the bulk of workload will be on the more experienced combine. The team management, however, will be happy to see the performance of Zaheer and Ishant, in particular, against Bangladesh.

The Delhi paceman’s recent form in the home series against Sri Lanka and in the tri-series here was as reassuring as a private banker’s promise.  But a stiff neck to Harbhajan Singh, who had a modest series in Bangladesh, provided Ishant a chance to play in the Chittagong Test, and he grabbed the chance with both hands.

The gangling pacer bowled with venom and rediscovered the swing into the batsman that once reduced a master batsman like Ricky Ponting to a hapless spectator. The wicket coloumn might not show the full impact he has made, but the spring is certainly back in his stride and confidence into his bowling.

But none was more impressive than Zaheer as the left-arm pacer conjured his vast experience to lead the Indian attack in conditions not exactly suited for bowling. “I am happy the way my spell went. It has boosted my morale,” he said. The way he fired out Bangladeshis on the fourth day of the second Test at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium was a study class in reverse swing.

The lone point of worry was the sight of him wearing a back-brace on Wednesday. “It’s something I do when the conditions are cold. Nothing to worry; but I still need to work on my fitness. My shoulder needs to be monitored and I have to do the rehab exercises,” Zaheer said.

Dhoni too acknowledged the role bowlers played in the series. “It was a difficult task to get wickets in this track, both for spinners and pacers. But all credit goes to the bowlers. They really put their best to get those 20 wickets, especially Zaheer's spell was terrific,” Dhoni said.

The form of Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar, who smashed two hundreds in the series, is encouraging for a team struggling to cope with injuries. But the Indians will perforce have to tend the wounds over the next week before facing a formidable opposition.

(Published 28 January 2010, 17:56 IST)

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