India v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Kanpur November 23, 2009

MS Dhoni happy with fast bowlers' form

His own place in the playing XI has been confirmed but MS Dhoni wasn't able to clear up today the other doubt over the Indian side for second Test: The bowling line-up. It wasn't a straightforward decision, he said, because nobody knew how the pitch would behave but he did confirm that all three fast bowlers in the squad - Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth - were fit and in good form.

That could be useful given the current state of the pitch - it had a grass cover till Monday afternoon - and the north Indian weather. "There is a lot of grass but the base is still pretty dry. It's difficult to predict exactly how it will play," Dhoni said, before elaborating. "It will help the fast bowlers early on every morning. The outfield is not lush green, so reverse swing will also be effective at some point of time. Fast bowlers will get some assistance."

The grass cover has been retained to protect the pitch from drying too fast and prevent a repeat of the pitch fiasco that forced the Test against South Africa in 2008 to finish inside three days. Back then the pitch was kept dry in the days preceding to the Test, so by the time the game started it had become more of a sandpit.

Yet it will have life and, after the dead Motera pitch which remained slow, flat and firm across the five days, this should encourage the bowlers. Dhoni praised both Ishant and Sreesanth for the effort they've put in - though pointing to the need for them to be more accurate. "Sreesanth is bowling really well, at a good pace and getting good swing and I'm quite happy," he said.

Ishant has been under the microscope this year: he dropped in pace, lost consistency and was far from the lethal force that he was a couple of years ago when he started his international career. In Ahmedabad, too, though he bowled decent lengths at good speeds, he still struggled to find the right tempo to trouble the Sri Lankan batsmen.

Dhoni, though, saw it differently. "He [Ishant] was getting a good rhythm in the previous Test. He was bowling a good channel, put in good effort and we have seen an improvement in whatever games he has been playing recently."

It is unlikely that India will field all their fast bowlers and with Harbhajan Singh as the lone spinner. "We are also expecting the wicket to break up and help the spinners but what pace and bounce they will get, we have to see," Dhoni said. So Pragyan Ojha, the left-arm spinner, remains an outside chance. But Amit Mishra is likely to retain his place with India sticking to the same eleven as in the first Test.

Meanwhile some of the players in the Indian squad would be released today, which would allow them to play the Ranji Trophy. Joining Dinesh Karthik in the Tamil Nadu squad was S Badrinath, who was on the bench in Ahmedabad. Murali Vijay will stay back in Kanpur as a reserve player.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo