August 7, 2002

Injured Kumble makes way for Harbhajan

The Indian team were spared the bother of dropping either Ashish Nehra or Ajit Agarkar to accomodate Harbhajan Singh when Anil Kumble was ruled out of the second Test with a calf strain. The leg-spinner, who was India's best bowler in the first Test at Lord's with 6 wickets, sustained the injury during the recently concluded NatWest Series. Kumble, India's strike bowler for almost a decade now, was a doubtful starter on the eve of the Test and was eventually ruled out after a team meeting late on Wednesday.

Kumble was scheduled to visit a specialist doctor for a scan along with team physiotherapist Andrew Leipus, but as none was readily available, it is likely that the leggie will undergo a scan on the morning of the second Test. Team manager Ranga Reddy broke the news over the telephone minutes after an hour-long team meeting at the Hilton, where the Indians are staying.

Kumble, who so dramatically came on to bowl with his head bandaged after breaking his jaw in the Antigua Test against the West Indies, was keen to play. Although not at his best since a shoulder injury laid him low some time ago, his grit and determination have made him a tough cricketer.

Kumble's unavailability paves the way for Harbhajan Singh to play his first Test of the series. The exclusion of the offie from the team that played the first Test led to widespread condemnation in papers in England and India. It was believed that Agarkar, despite his surprise ton at Lord's would lose his place in the side. Sourav Ganguly was spared the heartburn of carrying out this task, as the playing eleven virtually picked itself at the end of the team meeting.

Unless there are more dramatic developments of this kind before the start of the Test match, there is only one change in the Indian playing eleven that took the field at Lord's, with Harbhajan Singh coming in for Kumble. Ajay Ratra, carrying a niggle of his own, was finally cleared to play.