| Rahul Dravid
New Delhi: After the rain-forced frustration in Chennai, it’s back to sunshine here in the capital, but the hosts are still trying to steer clear of the gathering gloom. A team brimming with confidence and buoyed by fresh ideas, has been thrust into a position which demands immediate answers to a host of unwanted discoveries.
Vice-captain Virender Sehwag has shown signs of recovery, and was discharged from hospital late on Friday night. But there is still a big question mark over the dashing opener’s chances of facing Chaminda Vaas & Co. at the Kotla.
Rahul Dravid, the leader, is suffering from mild fever and preferred to rest at the team hotel instead of warming up with his teammates on Friday.
There was another twist to this who’s-available-and-who’s-not tale when Mohammed Kaif left halfway through the practice session ' which was held once again at the Indian Air Force grounds in Palam, as renovation work at the Kotla was still not complete.
Isn’t this the team Greg Chappell has been nurturing with care by trying out a number of experiments and unexpected moves, in the back-to-back series’ versus Sri Lanka and South Africa' True, it was largely meant for the World Cup in the Caribbean, 15 months down the line, while here we are talking about the traditional version of the game. But isn’t it a crisis the Australian must welcome to test his boys’ malleability'
Crisis' “No way,” came the immediate reply from Chappell. Here’s how he put things in perspective: “Sehwag is recovering and we are not in a position to rule him out completely; Dravid was asked to rest as a precaution but he’ll play; Kaif left the field with the permission of the team management (read Chappell).”
Dravid will, indeed, join Maravan Atapattu in the middle for the toss on Saturday morning. Yuvraj Singh or Kaif should replace Sehwag at the top of the order, but it shouldn’t be a surprise if even Sourav Ganguly is asked to go out with Gautam Gambhir.
“We will decide on the final composition on Saturday morning' We are leaving all options open,” Chappell said.
Reality, however, lies somewhere else. It’s the poor batting show in the rain-truncated first Test in Chennai that has led to a few furrows on his forehead. “Batting was a problem (in Chennai). We got dismissed for 167 and it showed we were still in the one-day mode. It should serve us a wake-up call,” Chappell said.
There is no denying the fact that Atapattu and his team will take to the Kotla with a psychological advantage gained in Chennai. “It’s a good bonus after a very disappointing ODI series,” the Lanka captain said.
“What we had gained in Chennai was absolutely necessary for the team, even if it was a one-and-a-half-day affair. The team as a whole is determined to turn things around and I believe the boys have the hunger to achieve this,” he added.
The new contest, however, will throw open quite a few interesting sub-plots as well. Sachin Tendulkar will hope his wait for the 35th century comes to end. Dravid is just 74 runs short of becoming the third Indian to get past the 8000-mark (after Sunil Gavaskar and Tendulkar). On the opposite side, Vaas needs two more wickets to enter the 300-club.
There seems to be a bit of grass in the wicket.
Anil Kumble’s 10-wicket haul against Pakistan here six years ago is still fresh in everybody’s mind. And who will not be aware of Muttiah Muralidharan’s presence in the Lankan line-up'
“Such a record (10 wickets in an innings) comes once in a while, but it’s past now. Tomorrow (Saturday) is a new challenge,” Kumble said.
India (likely): Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh/Mohammed Kaif, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble.
Sri Lanka (from): Maravan Atapattu, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkasra, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillekeratne Dilshan, Thilan Samarweera, Chaminda Vaas, Fervez Mahroof, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralidharan, Lasith Malinga, Avishka Gunawardene, Malinga Bandara, Sanjeeva Weerakoon, Jehan Mubarak.
Umpires: Simon Taufel and Nadeem Ghauri. TV: A.V. Jayaprakash.
Match Referee: Clive Lloyd.
Match starts: 9.30 am