I followed the county match with Northamptonshire with interest, only to see whether Sehwag and Gambhir would spend some time in the middle and whether Zaheer would be fit for the third test. It looks like Veeru and Gauti are fit to play, but Zak has been ruled out of the series and is expected to be out for more than 4 months. While I am excited that our best opening partnership may be back at Edgbaston, I am not too disappointed that Zak is gone. I have been saying for a while now that we must learn to live without him as his days are numbered anyway. This gives us an opportunity to see where we stand in the bowling department. Also, 2 events occurred recently that would help our bowling attack in the third test, an attack which took 20 England wickets in Trent Bridge without Zaheer. The first event is the absence of Trott in the England line-up. Trott has been in very good form almost since he came in to the test side, but even more so over the past year or so. England's batting has revolved around him more often than not in the recent past. So his loss would be a huge blow to England, especially since I am sure they are aware that Strauss and Cook have not been at their best in this series. That puts more pressure on KP, Bell and Prior in Edgbaston, which will help India's bowlers.
The other good thing, in my opinion, is the loss of Harbhajan, especially considering how he was bowling in the past 4-5 test matches. I have been suggesting that he should be dropped, but I also knew that his 2 test match hundreds would ensure that he remained the first pick among spinners. So now, the team management has to pick Mishra for the third test. Even though Mishra may go for some runs, he could get us some wickets, especially if the England batsmen play him from the crease, like some of them are prone to do. England probably plans to leave some live grass on the wicket to assist seam and bounce, and that could also help Mishra get some turn and bounce for us. If Dhoni uses him wisely and gives him good fields, with an in-and-out combination (at least a couple of catchers and about 3 on the boundary), Mishra could be useful for us.
But what will help us to win the third test, is definitely the batting. India need to start batting as they are known for. Sachin needs to come good now and we also need a big score from VVS. This will not only ensure that we have good runs on the board, but also that we are scoring at a decent pace. These are the kinds of players - Sachin, VVS, Veeru, Gauti - who will upset England's plans quickly because of the pace at which they naturally play. Someone like Rahul, who has been invaluable for us in the first 2 tests, does not create fear in the opposition enough to make them change plans midway, because he does not score quickly. And having seen the rest of India's batsmen over 2 tests, England will be confident enough to wait patiently and continue to execute their plans, because they know that the score will not move that quickly even though Dravid is looking rock-solid at one end. I am not undermining Rahul's importance here, just stating that how important it is from Team India's perspective that the other batsmen also score big and spend a lot of time in the middle.
My team for the third test will be - Veeru, Gautam, Dravid, Sachin, VVS, Raina (deserves one more chance especially with Yuvi gone), MSD, Mishra, PK, Ishant, Munaf.
I would replace Sreesanth with Munaf for this test match. Sreesanth is too unpredictable in my opinion and unless there is a cloud cover or something and the forecast is expected to aid swing a lot, I would not continue with Sreesanth and would bring in Munaf for the steadiness he provides and the ability to make batsmen play more than the others.
Lets hope for a turnaround from India in this test match, led by the batting. My next post will be after the test match, so stay tuned.