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Updated: November 23, 2009 19:55 IST

Toss holds the key for Kanpur Test

S. Dinakar
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MS Dhoni
The Hindu
MS Dhoni

The captain winning the toss may have to weigh his options. In fact, much could hinge on the spin of the coin for both sides in the second Test that gets underway at Green Park Stadium here on Tuesday.

There is some grass on the surface. But then, how much of it remains on the morning of the Test is anybody's guess. In any case, much of the grass could be dead instead of being live.

And dead grass, does not quite assist movement off the seam. Winter has set in and the dew on the surface could encourage the pacemen, at least initially.

Despite all these factors, it would be wiser to bat first. If a side can back itself to survive the first session with minimal loss, then it has a chance to dictate the course of the rest of the match. The pitch may not be under-prepared but could break after the third day.

If Mahendra Singh Dhoni - who has recovered well from a finger injury and will play the Test - gets the toss right, he would be well advised to take first strike. This also suggests that India goes in with two spinners.

There has been plenty of buzz about India playing a third paceman here. Santhakumaran Sreesanth has been bowling well at the nets and his fuller length and away swing presents India with a viable option.

India may have to take a call between Sreesanth and Ishant Shama. The lanky Ishant showed glimpses of returning to form in Ahmedabad but the surfaces in India suit a natural swing bowler more than a hit-the-deck paceman.

The Indian spin attack has to recover from a mental pounding in Ahmedabad. Spearhead Harbhajan Singh has not been bowling particularly well and leggie Amit Mishra was taken to the cleaners by the Sri Lankans at Motera.

Harbhajan will have to adhere to a line just outside the off-stump; this is where his variety comes into play. The moment the off-spinner starts operating middle-and leg, he becomes a lesser threat. The off-spinner reportedly suffering from a sore throat, did not attend the optional nets on the eve of the Test.

The team management may have to choose between Mishra and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. The Sri Lankans have used their feet and attacked Mishra, a touch too slow through the air. If the pitch starts to assist spin, then a left-arm spinner such as Ojha could exploit the conditions better against the right-handers.

Will the Indians play five bowlers by dropping a specialist batsmen? This is very unlikely since the extra batsman in Yuvraj Singh came up with a crucial innings on the first day of the opening Test. And if four bowlers cannot do the job, it is unlikely that a fifth will. More often that not, the fifth bowler is under-bowled. India sorely misses an all-rounder who would have lent greater balance to the side.

In contrast, Angelo Matthews' presence provides flexibility to the Sri Lankan side. He is a capable bowler who can send down telling off-cutters with the new ball and bat briskly down the order.

Although Kumar Sangakkara remains optimistic, it is unlikely that the speedy Damikka Prasad, nursing a grade-1 hamstring pull, will be fit for the Test; aggressive batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan is ready for action though after recovering swiftly from an injury to his nose.

Matthews' presence gives the visitors the option of fielding an additional spinner in Ajantha Mendis. In such a scenario, Matthews could open the bowling with impressive left-armer Chanaka Welegedara.

The Lankans, though, are likely to pick Nuwan Kulasekara, who can seam the ball from the right areas. Welegedara presents a clear and present danger to the Indian batsmen with his two-way movement from over-the-wicket and Kulasekara can retain pressure from the other end.

Both the sides are strong and resilient in batting. There were seven century-makers at Motera. The number could be less in the second Test. It would only be good for the series if the bowlers are allowed to make a difference.

The teams: India (from): M.S. Dhoni (captain), V. Sehwag, G. Gambhir, R. Dravid, S. Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra, S. Sreesanth, I. Sharma, P. Ojha, M. Vijay.

Sri Lanka (from): K. Sangakkara (captain), T. Dilshan, T. Paranavitana, M. Jayawardene, T. Samaraweera, A. Matthews, P. Jayawardene, C. Welegedera, N. Kulasekara, M. Muralitharan, A. Mendis, R. Herath, D. Fernando, T. Kandamby, K. Silva, D. Prasad.

Umpires: T. Hill & N. Long. Third umpire: S. Hazare.

Match Referee: J. Crowe.

Play starts at 9.30 am.

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