India sweat over Kumble's fitness ahead of final Test

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2008, 3:35 [IST]
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Kanpur: Team India is poised for a do-or-die battle to save the Future Cup in the third and final Test match here at the Green Park Stadium starting on Friday where the spinners are likely to rule the roost.

With Indian team management hinted to play three spinners, the Proteas on the other hand have also expected to give chance to two slow bowlers even though they dominated the Ahmedabad Test with seamers to give them 1-0 lead.

However, toss would be crucial for both the teams and batting first will be the automatic choice of team winning the coin. Both the teams would announce their playing XI tomorrow morning.

After the humiliating innings defeat at Ahmedabad, the hosts were facing several problems including the fitness of its skipper Anil Kumble and new pace sensation Ishant Sharma.

Indian team management might give chance to local lad Piyush Chawla to strengthen the spin attack but in no way they will drop a fast bowler to accommodate the right arm leg spinner.

South African coach Micky Arthur said his team was perfectly fit to take on the host and he will rely on the pace battery.

''Though we are also considering to play with two spinners but still our pace trio of Ntini, Steyn and Morken will take the advantage of the track,'' he said.

Buoyed with the win in the last Test, captain Graeme Smith said, his boys are in an upbeat mood and they are ready to make it 2-0 here.

India's hopes of squaring the Test series with South Africa received a boost on Thursday after key paceman Ishant Sharma was cleared to return for the final match.

"He (Sharma) is fit, but we have yet to decide on the team combination for the match," India skipper Anil Kumble told reporters on Thursday.

South Africa lead 1-0 in the series following their huge victory by an innings and 90 runs in the second match in Ahmedabad. The opening Test ended in a draw in Chennai.

India's pace attack lacked sharpness in the absence of the 19-year-old Sharma, who was forced to skip the first two Tests with finger and toe injuries.

Sharma rose to prominence on the contentious recent tour of Australia where he troubled batsmen with his pace and variations. He has so far grabbed 12 wickets in five Tests.

But the hosts were still sweating over the fitness of ace leg-spinner Kumble, yet to recover completely from a groin strain.

When asked whether he felt comfortable bowling in the nets, Kumble said: "Not really, but I am hoping to get better. I will have to wait before deciding anything. That will be the first call in the morning."

The Indian skipper said he was confident his team would bounce back after the disappointing performance in Ahmedabad, where the hosts were bundled out for 76 in the first innings.

"It was just one of those days when we lost 10 wickets in 20 overs. It does not happen every day. It was the one bad session we had in the last six years and we have put that behind us," said Kumble.

"We are very positive. It is not the first time that we have lost one Test in a series. We have done that in Australia and whenever we are pushed to the wall we have performed well."

India lost the first two Tests in Australia before coming back strongly to win the third in Perth. They eventually lost the four-match series 2-1.

India have not lost a Test series at home in three years and Kumble said his side was confident of maintaining the record.

"We are very proud of our home record and we would like to keep that intact. It is important for us to concentrate on this Test and get the right result to level the series," he said.

"We have a few plans and to ensure that we execute them. We are very confident we will be able to do that."

The pitch here is expected to favour spin, but Kumble said India needed to put in a strong all-round performance in a bid to level the series.

"We have to play good cricket whatever the conditions. I have always said that pitch, toss and weather have to be taken out of equation. The surface here is dry and will assist spinners as the match goes on," he said.

"Bowlers need to exploit the conditions. I think we have the ability to take 20 wickets and put runs on the board. We are prepared to do that in this Test."

Meanwhile, Green Park curator Shiv Kumar has said the pitch will be a competeting one and both the teams will have opportunities to gain. While in the first two days batsmen will have the upper hand and the last three days could belong to bowlers, he claimed. '' It is an ideal wicket for the Test match and will give result,'' the curator said.

The last Test played here, between the same two teams, was a dull draw which saw 23 wickets for the 1,145 runs scored.

This could certainly favour India provided the batsmen come good in the first innings. It will be interesting to see whether they will be able to win the match and save the series at a venue where they haven't lost any of their 19 Tests.

The conditions here are pretty similar to those in Ahmedabad and the weather will remain the same with scortching heat wave and temperature of about 38 degree celcius would hover around .


India: Anil Kumble( captain), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (vice-captain), Virendra Sehwag, Wasim Jaffar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Saurabh Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Ramesh Powar and Piyush Chawla, Coach: Gary Kirsten.

South Africa: Graeme Smith( Captain), Ashwell Prince (vice-captain), Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher (WK), AB de Villiers, Jean Paul Duminy, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Neil McKenzie, Moren Morkel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, and Charl Lageveldt, Coach: Michael Arthur.

Umpires: Billy Doctrove(Dominica) and Asad Rauf (Pakistan)

Third and fourth umpires: G A Pratapkumar, Sanjeev Dua

Match referee: Roshan Mahanama


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