MUMBAI: A massive, spin-assisted win over England at Ahmedabad was the ideal beginning for India in the four-Test series. But Mumbai’s Wankhede – that hosts the second fixture from Friday - promises a contest slightly more even than did Motera’s Sardar Patel Stadium.
It remains to be seen how seriously MS Dhoni’s demands for a surface that turns square from day one will be taken. But the India skipper has not endeared him to large sections of the cricket-following public with his remarks, nor would his counterpart Alastair Cook have taken Dhoni’s statements – or rather, the curators’ response to them – lightly.
The track at Wankhede Stadium has traditionally favoured spinners, but is expected to provide at least some assistance to the seamers. Dhoni however clarified on Thursday that the India would refrain from playing all their three spinners, and instead opt for the original two fast bowlers-two spinners composition, which would mean that Harbhajan Singh would have to sit out again.
“Harbhajan has to wait as (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Pragyan) Ojha are bowling well. We are looking at a 2 and 2 combination. You don't know exactly whether you are bowling first or batting. Which means if the spinners are bowling and there is not much turn for them and the ball is not stopping, it may be difficult for them to restrict the batsmen,” Dhoni said.
Ojha had picked up nine wickets and spun England to their disaster in the first Test. Ashwin had begun promisingly in the first innings, but faded away in the second as Cook and Matt Prior got the measure of him. The Chennai lad is expected to come back strongly at Mumbai.
Yadav out, Sehwag in spotlight
India’s pace bowling arsenal suffered a jolt when Umesh Yadav, who generated great pace flat wicket at Motera, was ruled out of the second Test with an injury. Yadav has been replaced by Ashok Dinda, but it is likely that Ishant Sharma will share the new ball with Zaheer Khan.
Aside from this, India is expected to retain their winning combination, although a few of their key batsmen had poor showings in Ahmedabad. Virat Kohli got out cheaply, as did Sachin Tendulkar, and Gautam Gambhir played a solitary, sketchy knock before leaving for New Delhi for personal reasons. Cheteshwar Pujara scored 247 runs without being dismissed in the opening encounter, would seek to continue his run of form. The spotlight, however will be firmly on Virender Sehwag, who is set to become the ninth Indian to play 100 Test matches.
Panesar to play
After being omitted for the first Test, left-arm spinner Monty Panesar is likely to get a game for England, after Andy Flower conceded they had erred in team selection. Panesar will join off-spinner Graeme Swann in bowling duties. Swann had taken five wickets in the first innings at Motera.England will continue to be deprived of fast bowler Steve Finn, who has not yet recovered from a thigh strain he suffered in a tour match.
England’s batsmen, particularly Cook and Prior, put up a stiff resistance in the second essay of the first Test, and would hope some of their resolve rubs off on to the other batsmen. Ian Bell has returned to England for the birth of his child and hence will miss the second Test, and it is likely that England may bring in Jonny Bairstow or Eoin Morgan to shore up their batting at the expense of the unlucky Samit Patel.
India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Murali Vijay, Ashok Dinda.
England (from): Alastair Cook (captain), James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Nick Compton, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Stuart Broad, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Graham Onions, Eoin Morgan, Monty Panesar and Stuart Meaker.
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