Wednesday, April 2, 2008

India sweat over captain Kumble's fitness

India's hopes of finding a winning formula for Thursday's second Test against South Africa here suffered a setback due to fitness fears over skipper and key spinner Anil Kumble.

Kumble, with 607 wickets in 126 Tests, looks a doubtful starter after failing to recover from a groin strain suffered during the drawn opening Test in Chennai on Sunday.

"We still have not decided on the team combination because there are a couple of injury concerns. I am feeling better, but we'll wait till tomorrow morning,"
Kumble told reporters here on Wednesday.

India desperately need a fit Kumble as their bowling options are already restricted following finger and toe injuries to teenage paceman Ishant Sharma, who was the find of the recent Australia tour.

Sharma is in contention for a place here after missing the first Test, but his captain said medical staff still needed time to assess his condition before making a final decision.

The fitness problems have come at a tricky time for India, already struggling to find match-winning bowlers against South Africa. Their bowlers toiled in Chennai as the visitors racked up scores of 540 and 331-5 on a docile pitch.

The hosts are also without record-breaking batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who is ruled out of the match after aggravating a groin injury in the first Test and makes way for Mohammad Kaif.

Venkatsai Laxman, who batted at number six in the first Test, is expected to replace Tendulkar in the number-four slot.

The Indian captain said they were not worried over South Africa's plans to counter opener Virender Sehwag with short-pitched deliveries following the batsman's fastest recorded triple-century in the previous Test.

"I think he (Sehwag) is a good enough batsman to handle that. He has scored 319 in the last innings. He is capable of handling whatever comes his way,"
said Kumble.

South Africa coach Micky Arthur said Tuesday his team planned to target the Indian opener with short-pitched balls in order to curb his strokeplay. Visiting captain Graeme Smith said it was one of the options.

He said South Africa were likely to be unchanged after an impressive performance in Chennai.

The third and final Test begins in Kanpur on April 11.

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