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Laxman and Kaif expect the axe

India's batsmen, VVS Laxman and Mohammad Kaif, have both been dropped for the second Test against England, which starts tomorrow morning in Mohali

Sreesanth: a viral fever has forced him to miss the second Test © AFP
On the evening of the second Test Mohali was abuzz with speculation on the Indian team's final composition and it emerged that India were certain to go into the Test match with five bowlers. This automatically meant that VVS Laxman and Mohammad Kaif would miss out, with Sreesanth, struggling with flu, also likely to sit out the game. The last time India played five bowlers in a Test match was in the drawn second Test against Pakistan at Faisalabad in January.
While the Indian thinktank would not confirm or deny that they were set to go into the Test with five bowlers, it is understood that Irfan Pathan will have Anil Kumble, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh and either RP Singh or Piyush Chawla for company. A final decision on whether Chawla or RP Singh will get the nod will be made on the morning of the game.
Yuvraj Singh, who is fit to play will replace Kaif, who scored 91 in the first Test at Nagpur. Rahul Dravid, though not answering directly on the question of Kaif, admitted that it was tough for a captain to leave out someone who had done well. "It's a tough one, to be honest," he said, when asked what it was like to have to explain to someone why they were dropped even after performing well.
"It's not always easy but as captain, all you can do is be as honest as you can and explain the situation. You tell the player that while he continues to be in your scheme of things for the long term, for this particular match, it may not be able to fit him in, especially when a proven, experienced performer comes back in," said Dravid. "You tell him that it's not meant to be an indication of his performance. We will try and give him as many opportunities as possible over a period of time, you just tell him that he has to be patient and keep working hard."
At the same time Dravid admitted that it was good to be in a position where the team was spoiled for choice, rather than the other way round. "In a way, it's a good situation to have because you have choices to make. It's a good feeling to know that you can call up anyone in the squad and that everyone can perform."
Probable squad Rahul Dravid (capt), Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Rudra Pratap Singh, Piyush Chawla.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo