Zaheer missed the second Test match, not necessarily as a precautionary measure, but since it actually takes that long a time to heal the injured hamstring. An early induction into competitive sport could result in relapsing and making the injury worse. This may prompt Team India to ask the 'wise men' to provide cover for an injured Zaheer.
Abhimanyu Mithun would be the most obvious choice, for he was a part of the Test team to the West Indies. But, it would be logical to browse through various other options (except Mithun) who could fit the bill. Thery're mostly two schools of thought at work while picking a player- 1. You go by a player's past experience, or 2. Be ruthless and go strictly by current form.
We must identify the key areas we need to address while looking for a replacement. Should it be the swing, the pace, the ability to bowl longer spells, wicket-taking ability or something else? Keeping the English conditions and the current set of fast bowlers at our disposal, I'd go for someone who can take wickets and yet be able to bowl longer spells with discipline. Someone who could swing the ball and use the conditions but also bowl reasonably quicker than Praveen, for two of the same kind won't suffice.
The first name I'd throw in for consideration is Rajasthan's Pankaj Singh, who also happened to be highest wicket-taker in the last first-class season. He's tall, gets the ball to swing both in the air and off the surface, and has the ability to bowl for long spells. His 53 wickets in the season was the just reward for his endurance. Since the Dukes ball used in England is quite similar to the SG Test used in India, he won't even take time to adjust.
But if we are looking for sheer pace to unsettle the English batsmen, our search shall start and stop at Umesh Yadav. He's the only bowler in India who generates high speeds and was rewarded with a place in the Test team to South Africa. If speed is his strength, his length is his bane, which is at least a couple of feet shorter than the ideal length for Test cricket.
But if we're looking for a left-arm seamer, for they've been extremely successful on previous tours, we are spoilt for choices. We could either go back to the top performer of 2007 England tour, R P Singh or the man who leapfrogged everyone to make his Test debut in South Africa, Jaidev Unadkat. If both don't fit the bill, we can also look at the Karnataka paceman, S Aravind.
These are the names we've heard and discussed in the past too but let me toss a complete stranger into the mix. Seeing Praveen Kumar's success in the first Test, I'm tempted to punt with young Deepak Chahar. He's a lot like Praveen except he's a little quicker and swings the ball a tad more. Since he's an unknown commodity, he could also surprise the English batsman. Wish he was picked for the Emerging Players' tour to Australia, for that could’ve tested him overseas too.