Indian Premier League April 16, 2008

Kumble ruled out of IPL opening fixture

Ashley Noffke has been called in as replacement to the injured Nathan Bracken © Getty Images

Anil Kumble has been ruled out of the opening match of the Indian Premier League, Rahul Dravid, the captain of the Bangalore Royal Challengers, has confirmed. Kumble's absence is the latest blow to a side still uncertain about the availability of some of its international stars.

Kumble, who missed the third Test against South Africa in Kanpur, is yet to recover from a groin injury. "He will miss the first game definitely but we'll see how it goes as we go along," Dravid said in Bangalore. "Anil is keen to play and we hope in about 4-5 days he should be able to play. The physio at the National Cricket Academy - Paul Close - and the franchise physio are both in discussion and we'll take a decision on that."

There has been some uncertainty over players' availability for the Bangalore franchise. Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher were expected to leave for the South African domestic Twenty20 competition but will now stay back. Dale Steyn, though, won't be available for the early stages and both Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan batsman, and Abdur Razzaq, the Bangladesh left-arm spinner, will miss the opening clash because of the ongoing series in Pakistan.

"There's been a lot of uncertainty over who is available," said Dravid. "We were waiting to see whether the South African players will stay back, Anil and [Nathan] Bracken miss out because of injury - Anil hopefully only for a game, Bracken maybe till May. We have [Ashley] Noffke and Ross Taylor till end of the month. And now we have Kallis and Boucher for more. Steyn's arrival will depend on how his franchise does in their Twenty20 competition back home. As for Misbah and Razzaq - a series is on. So they can join only after that."

The franchise wasted little time in getting a replacement for Bracken, the Australian left-arm seamer, who was ruled out for at least four weeks. "Bracken was unavailable till his injury situation, maybe the first week of May. Opportunity came up to sign up Noffke, only for the first four games, after which he goes back to Australia. We looked at him as a good allrounder potential. He's had a good season with Queensland."

The good news, though, comes in the form of another left-arm seamer, Zaheer Khan, recovering from injury. "Zaheer is coming on really well," Venkatesh Prasad, the coach said. "He was not really 100% before the start of the series which we played [against South Africa] but now he's coming along quite well. He's been bowling 90-95% in the net sessions. We're playing a practice game and it will give us a good indication."

Bangalore kick off the tournament with a home game against Kolkata on April 18.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo