India v West Indies, 2nd ODI, Cuttack January 23, 2007

Lara ruled out but Powar to play

Ramesh Powar: set to play his first one-dayer since October 2006 © AFP
West Indies have suffered a major blow ahead of the second one-day international at Cuttack with Brian Lara ruled out of the match with a knee problem. In Lara's absence, Chris Gayle will lead the team as they aim to bounce back from their 14-run defeat at Nagpur.

"Brian has a longstanding chronic knee problem in his left knee and after the first ODI in Nagpur he pulled up a bit sore," said the West Indies physio Stephen Partridge. "The one-day form of the game puts far more pressure on his left knee than Test cricket and with the World Cup around the corner he is heeding the advice of the medical team."

But Partridge added that there were no fears over Lara's place at the World Cup in March. Though West Indies have lost Lara they were handed a boost with Dwayne Bravo passed fit following his collision with the square-leg umpire at Nagpur.

India are also going to bring in some replacement faces, but for tactical reasons. Ramesh Powar, the offspinner who bats lower down the order, has been included instead of Suresh Raina while Joginder Sharma, the medium-pace allrounder, is also likely to get a chance ahead of Sreesanth.

Rahul Dravid spoke to the press after the nets session this morning and said that the changes were dictated by the conditions they expected - slow, low and a spin-friendly track. "We think that Powar could be useful on this track which looks like it will be slow and also take spin."

Rudra Pratap Singh and Robin Uthappa have been left out as well and Dravid hinted that Sreesanth could be given a break. "Joginder is more of an allrounder option in this scenario at number seven so that's something we are keen to explore and to give him an opportunity. Sreesanth has been playing a lot of cricket ... so in this kind of scenario, this kind of wicket we might think of actually giving him a break as it gives us the all-rounder option to play two spinners and five bowlers that we would like to play."

The final decision between the two will be made tomorrow after another look at the pitch.

Raina didn't get to bat in the first game but Powar and Joginder offer the bowling option that the team needs. "It is all about striking a right balance," Dravid said. "Raina is a very talented player and is very important for the future of Indian cricket."

Asked about the batting order, Dravid replied that it would be based on the situation. In the first game, Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni were promoted ahead of him. "It all depends on the start and the situation of the game. There is nothing fixed about the line-up."

The game will be played under lights, and there's a feeling the dew could prove to be a factor. "The dew will be a factor but how much we don't know. The locals were saying that there was a lot of dew the day before but not much yesterday. We have to manage in whichever way we can."

Would India prefer chasing because of the dew factor? "We do not have a problem with either chasing or setting a target," Dravid said. "I don't decide whether we have to chase or bat first. We look at the wicket and decide what will be the best thing to do on that wicket. We will see the wicket tomorrow. It looks a bit dry today but we will see how it is tomorrow after probably some watering and rolling today. "

Dravid also announced that Sourav Ganguly, who didn't take the field in the West Indian innings on Sunday, was fit and will play tomorrow. Ganguly had a strap around his left elbow in the nets session but looked pretty fluent while batting, and confident enough to ask the fastest nets bowler to have a go at him. Sachin Tendulkar added to the authenticity by indicating to the bowler that he should bowl bouncers, and the way Ganguly middled the bat is good news for India.

Sriram Veera is editorial assistant of Cricinfo