Indian selectors sweat over fitness reports
India's selectors await fitness updates on key Test players, ahead of their meeting on Thursday to pick the squad for the two-Test home series against South Africa. While Yuvraj Singh is almost ruled out of the first Test in Nagpur, the panel is not yet sure about the availability of Rahul Dravid (cheekbone fracture), VVS Laxman (injured left hand) and Sreesanth (strained hamstring). Fortunately, Sachin Tendulkar's shoulder injury is not that serious. Given the long injury list, it's plausible that they might name a team only for the first match.
Accordingly, several middle-order batsmen will spend an anxious night if either Dravid or Laxman, or both, are indisposed. M Vijay, who replaced Laxman in the second Test against Bangladesh, should be slotted in Yuvraj's place. S Badrinath may make it to the squad as cover, even if Dravid and Laxman are both picked. The next vacancy will interest Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, who have both been a bit of a fixture in the ODI side of late. Mohammad Kaif, who has scored a double-century and a century in one week, in the ongoing Duleep Trophy, is also believed to have an outside chance.
Other batsmen who have been doing well in domestic cricket - Cheteshwar Pujara, Manish Pandey and Ajinkya Rahane - will know that their performances in the Board President's XI tour match against the South Africans might count for more than usual in these circumstances. The Board President's side will also be decided on in the meeting on Thursday.
If Sreesanth doesn't recover in time, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma should make the starting XI. Sudeep Tyagi, who was the fourth seamer for the Bangladesh Tests, should fill in as the back-up seamer. However, for the last home series, against Sri Lanka, India's squad comprised three fast bowlers, so it's unlikely that a replacement will be named should Sreesanth fail to recover. If they do name a replacement, Karnataka's Abhimanyu Mithun, who led the wickets tally in the Ranji Trophy, could get a look-in.
The selectors are likely to retain the spin trio of Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha - with two making the final XI. Dinesh Karthik might not be required as back-up wicketkeeper for a home series - unless MS Dhoni's injury worries them still.