Australia in India 2008-09 October 27, 2008

'If Kumble is fit, he will replace Mishra' - Kirsten

Cricinfo staff


Gary Kirsten, India's coach, has ruled out playing three spinners at the Feroz Shah Kotla © AFP
 

While the stadium itself has retained none of the charm of the old world, the surroundings suggest you have entered a town of forts. Once you have entered the Feroz Shah Kotla - and it's mighty tough given the security - just look up and you'll find a policeman at most of the high points, overlooking the movements outside the stadium, almost like the guards in a fortress. They may as well be protecting India's lead in the series, welcome to the Fortress Feroz Shah.

Leading 1-0, India couldn't have come to a better venue - Kotla itself means a citadel - to try and kill the series: they have won the last seven Tests played here. India's build-up going into the third Test is in stark contrast to the one going into Mohali, where they won comprehensively. In Mohali, India were not sure of the final XI till about half an hour before the start; here they are almost sure - two days before the match - that Anil Kumble will replace Amit Mishra, who took a five-for on debut.

If Kotla is the fortress, Kumble has been its king. He has taken 55 wickets in six Tests here, at an average of 15.41. After having missed the Mohali Test, he seems to have recovered from the shoulder injury, and has been bowling in the nets. "He is looking good," Gary Kirsten, India's coach, said. "We are very happy with the way he is progressing. And if he is fit, he is the captain of the team, and he will take Mishra's place."

Harbhajan Singh's fitness comes into question because of a toe injury he had picked towards the end of the Mohali Test. Yesterday he bowled less than an over in the nets. Today he did the fielding drills, bowled about three overs, and also batted. "We will just wait and see. We have got two days to go, but hopefully it's not too serious," Kirsten said of the injury.

If Harbhajan and Kumble are both fit, Mishra will have to go back to what he has done for the last eight years: wait his turn. It may sound harsh, but that's what mostly happens to the replacement when the captain is back to full fitness. Kirsten was very clear about that, and also ruled out playing three spinners. "That's one good option you have [dropping a batsman to accommodate all the spinners]," Kirsten said, "But I certainly want to be going into a Test match with six batsmen."

And dropping one of the fast bowlers is not a question at all, given the form Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma have been in.

Apart from that aspect of team composition, Kirsten spoke of the confidence India's win in Mohali gave them. "It was a great Test-match win, certainly a benchmark Test, in terms of dominating play," Kirsten said. "It's a new day, a new game, but we will certainly use that Test as a benchmark for what we want to achieve."

While the player behaviour has come under the scanner once again in an India-Australia series, Kirsten said it was natural when two such competitive sides played. "[These are] two very competitive, emotional and aggressive teams. I think there will always be occasions in pressure situation when either team might overstep the mark a little bit.

"Zaheer, in the match referee meeting [when he was fined 80% of his match fee for having given Matthew Hayden a send-off], admitted that he had crossed the line, but these things happen. These are two teams playing a high level of cricket, that creates great excitement for Test cricket in the world. We must encourage that competitiveness; we understand that individuals mustn't overstep the mark."