After Harmison, Hoggard in doubt for Lord’s Test

By Ashis Ray, IANS

London : England are likely to be without fast bowler Matthew Hoggard for the Lord's Test against India starting Thursday

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The Yorkshire fast bowler was expected to share the new ball with former county mate Ryan Sidebottom.

Hoggard was sent to hospital for a scan after suffering back spasms during practice Wednesday and is rated as "extremely doubtful" for Thursday's game.

Already without Steven Harmison and Andrew Flintoff, the absence of Hoggard leaves England with an inexperienced pace attack.

James Andreson with 16 Test appearances is the most experienced seamer in the home squad. Leicestershire's Stuart Broad, 21-year-old son of former England opener Chris Borad, has been tipped by coach Peter Moores as a possible replacement for Hoggard.

It will, however, be unwise for the touring side to underestimate left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.

As far as the Indian attack is concerned, Rudra Pratap Singh is a shoe-in for the third seamer's spot after Zaheer Khan and S. Sreesanth.

The briskness and bounce Singh has been able generate of late could test the English batsmen.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni may get the nod ahead of Yuvraj Singh, thus leaving wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik to concentrate on his batting. Karthik and Wasim Jaffer have a crucial role to play in seeing off the new ball.

Anil Kumble is likely to be the only specialist slow bowler in the Indian team.

In the pre-match mind-games, the Indians have rubbed it in that the hosts will be weakened by the absence of Flintoff and Harmison. Now with Hoggard joining the injured list, the Indian morale will be sky high.

But England's batting is on a song, and Kevin Pietersen in particular will punish any waywardness on the part of the Indian seamers.

The Indian outcricket is noticeably unathletic, so their close catchers cannot afford any lapses.

The Indians will look to the current series to bury a few ghosts from the past, especially their inability to win away series.

The 1990s were terrible years for Indian cricket: Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman rendered service during this period, in harness for the second half of the decade.

Fast bowlers Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad were as good in tandem as any in India's history, not to mention Anil Kumble, statistically, the country's most clinical bowler ever.

Yet, India could not win a single away series, other than in Sri Lanka.

Why? There was no coach to blend the talent into a match-winning team!

The disorganisation ended with the appointment of New Zealand's John Wright as coach. He introduced science and systems. Indeed, it's doubtful if Ganguly would have achieved his success as captain without the analytical, practical and therapeutic off-match support provided by the former Kiwi opener and skipper.

The contribution of coaching at the international level has become increasingly sophisticated and essential to the well-being of a side. People who think India can be competitive in this day and age without a proper coach are deluding themselves.

In the brave new world of Indian cricket, a touring party has been despatched to take on the second-ranked Test unit in the world in the latter's den without a head coach.

Several of the Indians who were put up before media Tuesday, including Tendulkar and Ganguly, glossed over the handicap in a well-tutored fashion by citing that Chandu Borde, the cricket manager, was looking after batting and Prasad and Robin Singh, bowling and fielding, as designated from the visit to Bangladesh.

They pointed to the success over South Africa in Belfast in conditions favouring the latter's fast bowlers. But they should know there is a vast difference in the demands made by one-day internationals as compared to Test matches.

It appears, though, that the Indians are a relatively relaxed lot and the fear factor among some of the players created by former coach Greg Chappell's prickly style of functioning seems to have evaporated.

The week ahead, which could be partly wet, will illustrate whether this state of comfort is a recipe for success or failure.