Mishra to pave way for Kumble, hints Kirsten

Haryana leg-spinner Amit Mishra will pave way for fit-again Anil Kumble in the third Test against Australia, India coach Gary Kirsten hinted on Monday.

updated: November 14, 2008 11:58 IST
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New Delhi:

His sensational Mohali debut notwithstanding, Haryana leg-spinner Amit Mishra will pave way for fit-again skipper Anil Kumble in the third Test against Australia, India coach Gary Kirsten hinted on Monday.

Kirsten said Kumble was recovering well from the shoulder injury that kept him out of the Mohali Test, handing Mishra his maiden Test cap.

Kirsten said there was no possibility of going into the match with three spinners at the cost of a middle-order batsman and chances are also slim that India would opt for two leg-spinners, Kumble and Mishra, dropping the in-form offie Harbhajan Singh.

"If Kumble is fit, he is the captain of the team, he'll play the next match I expect," Kirsten said after India's practice session at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Monday.

"He is looking good, so we are happy with the way things have progressed," he added.

Ruling out the prospect of fielding three spinners at the possible cost of VVS Laxman, Kirsten said, "No, there is not a possibility of that, as far as I'm concerned...I would like to go into a Test match with six batsmen."

Mishra's slender hopes now hinge on the toe injury Harbhajan picked in the Mohali Test even though Kirsten said he expected the off-spinner to recover before the third Test.

"I'm not sure (about Harbhajan's injury), to be honest. We'll just wait and see tomorrow. Hopefully it's not too serious.

"I think he picked it up towards the end of the last game, maybe it's an over-use injury. We are hopeful that he would be ready for this Test," he said.

Kirsten was effusive in his praise for the pacers and also dismissed talks in the Australian media that Zaheer Khan could be emotionally vulnerable.

"I don't think he is emotionally vulnerable. He is an exceptionally talented bowler, a great performer for India. He has certainly produced the goods," Kirsten said, insisting he was not focussing on what the visitors are saying about his wards.

Rather, he waxed eloquent on how Zaheer and Ishant Sharma have forged a lethal partnership in the series.

"They bowled exceptionally well. I mean it's a very exciting time for Indian cricket with two fast bowlers having such an impact in a Test series. Certainly, we said in our planning that we need our fast bowlers to be the strikers and they have certainly done exceptionally well so far.

"With two more Test matches to go, we would like that trend to continue," said the South African.

On Ishant, Kirsten said, "I was impressed the first minute I saw him. When I was in Perth for my first time... I saw something in Ishant we can all be excited about as a young fast bowler. He loves Test cricket, he does not want to bowl just five overs, he wants to bowl 25 overs a day.

"He's mentally strong, a great find and a great asset for Indian cricket and I think our challenge is to manage him carefully so that he continues to give great performances for India," Kirsten said.

Looking back at the Mohali Test, Kirsten said India played flawless cricket and now they need to maintain the standard.

"It was a great Test match, certainly a benchmark Test match in terms of dominating the play. But it's a new day and new game and we'll certainly use that Test match as a benchmark to what we would like to achieve in future."

Like any other Indo-Australian clashes, the Mohali Test also saw sparks flying and Zaheer was fined 80 per cent of his match fee for a prolonged celebration after Matthew Hayden was dismissed by Harbhajan Singh.

Kirsten, however, saw no reason to reign in his wards.

"I think it involves two very competitive, very emotional and aggressive teams, so that's very exciting for Test cricket to have a competition like that. I think there will always be occasions in pressure situations when either team might overstep the mark little bit.

"Zaheer in the Match Referee's meeting admitted he overstepped the mark. That can happen. (After all) they are trying to produce high level of cricket and that creates great excitement. We must encourage it but we obviously understand that individuals must not overstep the mark," Kirsten said.

"It's a tremendous clash between two great cricketing nations and there is huge interest.

"The teams are in many respects playing in a similar fashion -- both have got talented batsmen who play aggressively and now we certainly see the Indian seamers coming into play. So it just creates exciting cricket in all components of the game," Kirsten observed.

On the Kotla track, the India coach said, "Obviously guys in the team know the wicket better, I tend to take the backseat there."

About the task at hand, Kirsten said, "All I know is that they would be well-prepared. They are a highly competitive team and we are giving everything to win this Test match. That's the way they are...we are not expecting any freebies in the next Test match."