Three not a crowd in Mumbai Test

Sanjjeev K Samyal & Anand Sachar

Mumbai, Nov. 21 -- Fast bowler Umesh Yadav is doubtful for the second Test against England starting on Friday due to a lower back problem. He underwent a scan on Wednesday and didn't turn up for the optional practice session held in the afternoon at the Wankhede Stadium.

While it will be a big setback for India as Yadav was the most impressive pace bowler on both sides in the opening Test, it may be equally bad news for England. It opens up the possibility of the hosts going in with a triple spin attack.

Their second innings heroics notwithstanding, most of the England batsmen have found spin too hot to handle. The fightback in Ahmedabad was built around skipper Alastair Cook's epic 176 and Matt Prior's defiant 91. The performance of the rest of the batters did little to evoke confidence.

Right combine

With Zaheer Khan and Umesh bowling in good rhythm, the Indian attack had a balanced look with two pacers and two spinners.

If Umesh doesn't recover, it remains to be seen if the Indian team management will have the same confidence in reserve pacers Ishant Sharma and Ashok Dinda, who has been called as cover.

If skipper M S Dhoni goes by the policy of playing the best bowlers, then Harbhajan Singh comes into the equation.

While Ishant has been bowling tidily, there is question mark over his strike rate. The Punjab offie showed signs of returning to form while playing for Essex in the English county, and despite struggling in domestic games, has been impressive at the nets.

Also, after R Ashwin's lacklustre show in the second innings at Ahmedabad, there is a slight worry in the Indian camp.

Visitors wary

Even though the Wankhede wicket had a healthy green tinge on Wednesday, the colour is expected to dull by the time the game starts on Friday.

It's a wicket where the spinners are expected to be more menacing than they were at Motera. The grass cover is only to ensure it doesn't degenerate into a rank turner, which would get the host association into the bad books of the International Cricket Council.

The Englishmen are not being fooled by what they have seen. They know what awaits them and their practice session on Wednesday was focused on training against spin.

They had asked for a turning wicket for practice and would be happy with the one provided by the local association.

One of the spinners who bowled in their nets told HT that the ball was turning square during the England practice.

The watering of the wicket has substantially reduced and the harder the sun beats down, the drier will be the surface. It's not the normal Wankhede wicket, which offers equal assistance to pacers and spinners.

Former left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju, who had played a key role in the 1993 whitewash of England, felt India should stick to a two-pace and two-spin combination.

"In that series, we had two good pace-bowling all-rounders, Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar. The Mumbai wicket has something for everyone and we should play two pacers," the former national selector said.

England batsman Jonathan Trott, one of the flops of the opening Test, claimed that the visitors are not surprised by the spin-friendly tracks they have been offered.

"When you are playing in India, spin plays an important part. Spinners are expected to pick a lot of wickets."

Trott had three batting sessions in the morning. In the process, he managed a decent glance at the Test wicket. If Trott is to be believed, India spinners have a reason to celebrate.

"It looked similar to the practice wickets on which there was turn. Plus, you have the red soil which makes the ball spin more."

Dope tests

Both the teams' training were halted a few times as players were taken for random dope tests. England's Stuart Broad and Kevin Pietersen as well as Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Sachin Tendulkar were taken, forcing them to leave the nets briefly.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.