Dress rehearsal for Dhoni & Co before real action
Canberra: The Indians are likely to field their first team when they take on Cricket Australia Chairman`s XI in their second and final warm-up game on Monday with the focus on the fitness of their fast bowlers ahead of the four-match Test series, starting December 26.
With the injury scare to Ishant Sharma, who is likely to be rested tomorrow, the focus will be on Zaheer Khan – also returning from injury after playing just a couple of a Ranji matches.
While the bone of contention in the Indian ranks would be about how well Ishant Sharma`s injured ankle is shaping up, the Australian team management would be keenly keeping a tab on the form of Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja before the real action begins.
The team sources insist it would be a precautionary rest for Ishant but at best the issue on his availability is likely to linger till the morning of the first Test in Melbourne on December 26.
In the first practice game (which was not a first-class match), Indian bowlers were taken to cleaners by Tom Cooper and Co as the Chairman`s XI scored 398.
However, Sachin Tendulkar`s fluent 92 and VVS Laxman`s half-century have given assurances to the visitors.
Tomorrow`s match would offer a first outing for the likes of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who according to senior Australian batsman Mike Hussey has earned a lot of respect from the home team.
Sehwag will be a big draw, fresh from his record double century in One-day Internationals. He would have fond memory of Manuka Oval where he thumped a century during the 2007-08 tour that paved his return to Test ranks in the subsequent Perth Test.
All eyes will also be on Zaheer Khan who is back in the team after proving his match-fitness in two Ranji Trophy games against Orissa and Saurashtra. It is particularly to counter Zaheer`s swing that Australians have ordered a batting camp.
India`s pace spearhead is back in the ranks pulling out midway through the first day of the first Test against England at the Lord`s back in July. Since then, he has gone through an ankle surgery and a rehabilitation programme.
Zaheer`s presence would also offer the Australians an insight into how their young batsmen are ready for the challenge of swing.
Test players like Hughes, Warner, Khawaja and those seeking a recall like Doug Bollinger and Trent Copeland would all spice up the contest. While talents of the future, opener Ed Cowan and batsman Alex Doolan would also be looking to earn their stripes.
Rain though is likely to play spoilsport on the opening day tomorrow with nearly a certain forecast of thunders and showers promised by the weathermen.
The Teams (from): India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c), Virender Sehwag (vc), Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav.
Cricket Australia Chairman`s XI: David Warner (c), Doug Bollinger, Cameron Boyce, Tom Cooper, Trent Copeland, Alex Doolan, Peter George, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Josh Lalor, Tim Ludeman, Shaun Marsh.