With India looking to wrap up the series against New Zealand at Eden Gardens, key man Ravichandran Ashwin’s hurting finger could keep the team management on their toes. Since the off-spinning all rounder had bowled amidst lingering discomfort on his right hand during the previous Test, the home side have called up a like for like replacement in Jayant Yadav.
The 30-year old from Tamil Nadu had operated with a ‘corn’, a pain inducing area of swelling on the middle finger of his bowling hand. In fact, he revealed that during the couple of weeks preceding to the opening Test at Kanpur, not a lot of practice was possible as a precautionary measure.
After the 3rd day of India’s landmark 500th Test, Ashwin had admitted, “This game especially, I have a corn on my finger and I haven't bowled a lot in the last 25 days. I'm not very happy with the way it has come out so far. I just hope that I can do better in the series.” However, he managed to pick up ten wickets in the match with six of those coming in the second innings.
The hosts have replaced the injured KL Rahul with the experienced Gautam Gambhir while Yadav has come in for seamer Ishant Sharma who is understood to have not recovered sufficiently from chikungunya that had kept him out of the first Test as well. Though coach Anil Kumble claimed that all 15 members of the revamped squad will be available for selection, there is considerable doubt surrounding Ashwin’s fitness.
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Meanwhile, Yadav can also chip in with the bat aside from sending down copious amounts of overs. In the recently completed ‘A’ team tour to Australia, the 26-year old Haryana off-spinner contributed 85 runs and seven wickets during the two 4-day games at Allan Border Field in Brisbane. From 42 first-class matches, he has picked up 117 scalps at an average of 29.70 apart from scoring 1548 runs at an average of 28.14 with 2 centuries as well as 6 five wicket-hauls.
Not the one to reveal his cards, Kumble felt, “I still haven't had a look at the pitch. It's early in the season, there's been a lot of rain in the air and I hope rain doesn't play spoilsport during the Test match. I've spoken about this before the start of the series too - that whatever wicket is there, we have the squad to encounter any challenge and adapt to any conditions. So, we're not really worried too much about the pitch and what it can do, what it cannot do. We have all bases covered.”
The second Test at Kolkata begins on Friday and it should be particularly fascinating to see whether India reverts to their favored five-bowler theory in order to reduce Ashwin’s workload.