Belfast: The viral bug has hit Team India real hard. With the numbers just not making up, the team management was forced to seek the services of Baroda paceman Rakesh Patel for Tuesday’s first ODI against South Africa.
The change from the heat and humidity of the subcontinent to the rain and chill of Ireland has severely affected the visitors, with almost half the squad — including skipper Rahul Dravid — being laid low by viral fever and flu.
Vice-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar didn’t even make it to the ground for practice on the eve of the three-match Future Cup ODI series. And the list was growing by the hour, Dravid told reporters.
“It’s not the ideal situation for us. But there’s not much we can do about it. Hopefully we can get 11 fit guys on the park and play a good game,” Dravid said on Tuesday.
“Quite a few are suffering from viral fever, flu... symptoms of that kind. Sreesanth, Agarkar, Dhoni, RP Singh and Powar have not come for (Monday’s) nets.
“Yuvraj (Singh), myself, Zaheer (Khan), Robin (Uthappa) are also feeling a bit down.” The bowling department is the worst hit. Besides the viral-hit pacers, Zaheer Khan is in the process of regaining full fitness following a groin injury.
Ishant Sharma and Ranadeb Bose — who had been selected only for the Test series in England — have been asked to fly out of India late on Tuesday to bolster the ODI bowling attack. They will thus be available for selection only from the second ODI.
In a desperate measure, the team management issued an SoS to the 28-year-old Patel, who is currently playing league cricket in England. “We have called up Patel from one of the leagues here as back-up for the fast bowlers because Sreesanth and Agarkar are unlikely to play tomorrow, and Zaheer is doubtful,” Dravid said. Patel, who is with St Helens in the first division of the Liverpool competition, has been asked to reach Ireland by Tuesday morning.
Dravid said there was an attempt to postpone the match by a day, but it didn’t work out.
“Postponing a game involves television, tickets, spectators, catering… a last-minute decision to move the game by a day was quite difficult. So we decided to go with what was there and play tomorrow,” he said.
South African skipper Jacques Kallis said that despite India’s fitness worries, his team wasn’t going to relax one bit. Kallis, leading the team in the absence of Graeme Smith — who is recovering from a knee surgery — also said conditions were tough for batting.
“The ball seams around a lot here, so batting is quite tough. We need to be careful with the new ball. We need to be on top of our game to beat India.”
India (from): Rahul Dravid (captain), Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Ramesh Powar, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Rudra Pratap Singh, Piyush Chawla, Rakesh Patel
South Africa (from): Jacques Kallis (captain), AB De Villiers, Morne van Wyk, Herschelle Gibbs, Justin Kemp, Mark Boucher, Andrew Hall, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, J. Duminy, Vernon Philander, Thandi Tshabalala
Umpires: Mark Benson and Aleem Dar. TV: Billy Bowden
Match Referee: Alan Hurst
Live telecast from: 3 pm (Neo Sports, SAB)