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All eyes will be on Virender Sehwag

UNDER THE SCANNER: Virender Sehwag would be keen to silence his critics a la Sachin Tendulkar, and confirm his berth for the World Cup.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: AFP

Vijay Parthasarathy

Indian camp beset by a few injury worries ahead of the second one-dayer

Rajkot: Passing showers on the eve of the second one-dayer between India and Sri Lanka have raised the possibility of another disrupted match in the Hero Honda Cup. This development could yet subvert Virender Sehwag's bid to nab one of the few remaining places in the squad for the ICC World Cup.

Careers cannot be arrested on the evidence of one failure; but Sehwag's prolonged slump has put him under some pressure.

Already he has been displaced as an opener; even assuming India wins the toss and he gets to bat, an early dismissal to a good ball here might open up a spot in the middle order an improbable circumstance, though not altogether impossible.

Near-certainty

Yuvraj Singh, however, is virtually a certainty for the World Cup. Dravid revealed as much in the post-practice session press conference on Saturday when queried about the injury-plagued batsman's prospects.

Plainly, the assertion is that Yuvraj is a proven match winner, a finisher in the mould of Michael Hussey (or perhaps, accurately, the less consistent Andrew Symonds), who can force momentum shifts in the middle overs and during run chases.

Yuvraj's current ailment primary stiffness in the back was not serious enough to cause worry, Dravid indicated. The attacking left-hander appears to have fully recovered from his knee injury, which at one stage was proving a major cause for concern.

Irfan Pathan has some trouble with his bowling arm it's reportedly a bit sore while Ajit Agarkar is yet to rebound from an attack of viral flu. The Mumbai paceman was a bit flat in the nets on Saturday.

The decision whether to include Agarkar and/or Pathan in the playing eleven will be taken in the morning.

Dravid's options

Dravid might choose to employ the same combination that went into the abandoned match at Eden Gardens on Wednesday. Or, he could be slightly adventurous and rest the extra lower-order bat Tamil Nadu wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik in favour of second spinner Anil Kumble, whose quicker delivery could be of some use on this flat Rajkot batting wicket.

Dravid made it clear that his Statemate was still "very much in the loop" but the leg-spinner's selection would depend on conditions and the form of the other frontline spinner, Harbhajan Singh.

Karthik, as Dravid remarked dryly, is almost picking himself as a batsman these days; a statement that hints at the respect the young keeper has quickly earned.

Surely he has done just about enough to press his claim for a spot on the West Indies-bound squad.

Moody optimistic

The last time India played Sri Lanka at the Madhavrao Stadium, the home team cantered home with fifteen overs to spare. But the Sri Lankans are optimistic about their chances of winning Sunday's game. Tom Moody, the Sri Lankan coach, said: "The weather factor does not bother me at all, it's not something we can control. But we were holding a strong position in the last match."

That is a contextual declaration, really, though three wickets had fallen for a little over 100 runs; it was Sanath Jayasuriya's form that nudged the islanders ahead at that stage. Indeed, Jayasuriya was looking good for a big hundred, and his team will hope his form holds over the next month.

The teams (from): India: Robin Uthappa, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Zaheer Khan, S. Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble.

Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Kumara Sangakkara, Upul Chandana, Russel Arnold, Marvan Atapattu, Malinga Bandara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dilhara Fernando, Farveez Mahroof, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Chamara Silva, Nuwan Zoysa.

Umpires: Simon Taufel & Suresh Shastri. Third umpire: Pratap Kumar.

Hours of play: 9 a.m. to 12.20 p.m. and 1.10 p.m. to till close of play.