Saker admits to Broad concerns
David Saker, the England bowling coach, has admitted the form of Stuart Broad is "a bit of an issue" following two poor performances in Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Broad bowled 12 wicketless overs in the first innings of the second Test, amid reports he was suffering from a fever, and was not required when India crumbled to 142 against Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann. That return followed a barren outing in Ahmedabad where his figures were none for 97 from 24 overs.
Broad entered the series having been limited to just 10 overs in the warm-up matches because of a bruised heel. He was under pressure for his spot heading into the second Test, but Steven Finn's thigh injury assured him another outing. His place is now under further scrutiny.
"It is a bit of an issue," Saker said. "He has not bowled as we would have liked. But he's not the first bowler to come over here and find it hard."
Saker said that Broad needs to find ways to adapt his game and suggested that his confidence had taken a hit with recent performances.
"Stuart's not a great, yet. He has to learn ways to become great," he said. "If he gets the next Test he has to be ready for it. During my tenure as bowling coach, I haven't had too many players down in confidence and form. I hope I can do some stuff over the next few days that can help."
Finn, meanwhile, is beginning his return from injury by playing for the England performance programme side in Mumbai over the next three days and Saker said he could be the missing link in the attack. "He's got that x-factor, a bit of pace, that height that always means you could get variable bounce over here - so his name will be bandied around for sure for that second seamer's spot."
It is far from assured, though, that Finn will be able to push Broad for a place in Kolkata. His return to action is tentative at best after his initial injury, picked up in the first warm-up match, was aggravated in training towards the end of the Ahmedabad Test. The next three days will make-or-break Finn's tour.
"We've got our fingers crossed he gets through, number one; if he gets through unscathed and bowls well, his name will definitely be talked about for selection," Saker said. "We were really confident he'd be right for this Test, so I'm not sure.
"I've just got my fingers crossed he gets through; if he does, we can make a decision. We're not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We want to make sure he gets through his three or four spells and gets some rhythm. Then his name will come up."
If Finn does not recover there are other pace-bowling options for England to consider in Graham Onions and the uncapped Stuart Meaker who was added to the squad as cover early in the tour. Onions would bring experience and a wicket-to-wicket approach, while Meaker has bowled with pace in the nets and has the ability to find reverse swing.
It has been a curious year for Broad - who is also England's Twenty20 captain - as he remains the most prolific pace bowler in Test cricket with 40 scalps at 31.70, one ahead of South Africa's Vernon Philander, despite inconsistent form. He began 2012 with impressive performances in the UAE before missing the second Test against Sri Lanka, in Colombo, due to injury.
He returned for the opening Test against West Indies at Lord's where he bagged a career-best 11 wickets but there was a lingering suspicion that he was not at the top of his game. He was rested for the final Test against West Indies, along with James Anderson, and he had a limited impact against South Africa where he only produced one telling spell, on the final day at Headingley.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo