Nagpur: The Indians would field four bowlers - Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh - and seven batsmen for the first test against Zimbabwe commencing at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) ground from Thursday.
Though Indian captain Saurav Ganguly said the playing 11 would be finalised only after the selectors meet later on Wednesday night, the Indians are likely to leave out off spinner Sharandeep Singh, medium pacer Tinu Yohannan and all-rounder Sanjay Bangar from the playing 11, according to team management. The Indians would open their batting with Shiv Sunder Das and wicket-keeper Deep Dasgupta. Vice-captain Rahul Dravid will come in at number three followed by Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag. It will also be a testing time for Laxman, who was dropped from the One-day squad against England recently, and Dravid, who is coming back from a short rest due to shoulder problems.
However, the real test for the Indians would be to bowl out their opposition twice unlike the last time around when Zimbabwe's Andy Flower single-handedly defied the Indian bowlers with a double century in the second innings even after his team had followed-on in the first innings. With Zaheer Khan in good form and Srinath proving that he is still a force to reckon with and the two spinners doing their bit against the Englishmen, it would be interesting to see how the visitors cope-up this time around. Unlike the Indians, the Zimbabweans announced their 12-men team and left out Dion Ebrahim and Mpumelelo Mbangwa. Craig Wishart is likely to be the 12th man.
The visitors will open their batting with their skipper Stuart Carlisle and Trevor Gripper, who had a very good series against the Sri Lankans. Former captains Andy Flower, who had a very poor series in Sri Lanka and Alister Campbell, Gavin Rennie and wicket-keeper Tatendu Taibu form the nucleus of their middle order batting with Heath Streak, Grant Flower, Travis Friend, Brighton Watambwa and left-arm spinner Raymond Price forming the lower middle order.
The Indian skipper told reporters after the net practice that he was not too happy with the state of the wicket. "The wicket might turn a bit in the later stages of the match but as of now it looks similar to the one we played last time around and I don't want to pass any comment before the selectors have a look," he added. When asked about any plans to change the batting order, Ganguly said, "I don't think there is any need to change the batting order in Test cricket though I hinted at a change in the One-dayers." Asked about the playing eleven, the stylish southpaw said, "I really don't know. It could be a toss up between Sehwag and Bangar. I am waiting for the selectors to come and finalise the playing 11."