Bangalore: High on confidence after the thrilling win in the series-opener but ravaged by injuries, India take on Australia in what promises to be another high-voltage battle in the second and final cricket Test here on Saturday.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men, fresh from the one-wicket win in the opening Test in Mohali, go into the match with a psychological edge but many injury problems to deal with.
The Indians would be seeking to wrap up the Test series and prevent the mighty Australians from clinching a Test win on Indian soil in six years but being a depleted side could turn the tide against them.
The Indians would be without key stars such as opener Gautam Gambhir and pacer Ishant Sharma, who had just about rediscovered some lost form when he was laid low by a knee injury in the opening Test.
The hero of last match’s narrow triumph, VVS Laxman is also doubtful starter due to back spasms as he has not practiced for two days now.
“Laxman is much better now compared to what he was, though he did not practice today also. But we would love to have him in the playing XI. Of course, we need time to decide because it’s a longer format,” said Dhoni.
Tamil Nadu opener Abhinav Mukund, who performed well in the recently held Irani Trophy tournament, and Jaydev Unadkat have been included in the team in place of Gambhir and Ishant but it remains to be seen whether they would actually find a place in the playing XI.
With the track once again seeming to be on the slower side, stroke-making would be difficult as the match progresses.
As was evident the last time these teams had played year in October 2008, Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh would have a big role to play in the match.
Their pride hurt, the Australians would pull out all stops to turn the tables on the Indians after letting slip a game which was well within their grasp on at least the first four days.
“They will come back strongly in the second Test. That is there culture and also they do not give up easily. We are prepared equally and ready to face the task,” Dhoni said.
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting would be looking up to his batsmen to rise to the occasion for the tourists to square the two-match series.
However, Indian batting looks to be more solid with technically sound, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman having been among runs and they would be followed by the stylish and in-form Suresh Raina.
Dhoni, who is having a bad patch with the bat, would also be eyeing a solid innings in Bangalore.
If these top Indian master the conditions, the rival bowlers would have difficulty in their successes.
With Ghambir sidelined due to injury, Tamil Nadu opener Murali Vijay is all set to open with Virender Sehwag.
As for the Aussie bowling, the pace trio of Doug Bollinger, who is said to have recovered fully from a back strain, Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus would look to continue the good work they did in the Mohali Test.
They would once again look to exploit, Indian batsmen’s relative discomfort against genuine pace.
The Aussies last won a Test series in India under Bill Lawry in 1969-70 and the visiting team’s captain Ponting, having lost the Mohali Test, would be keen to square the series.
India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, M.Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhinav Mukund and Jaydev Unadkat.
Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Simon Katich, Philip Hughes, Mike Hussey, Marcus North, Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, Tim Paine (wk), James Pattinson, Peter George, Nathan Hauritz, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc.