Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, will take his place in the Proteas squad for the Second Test against India which starts today in Kolkata despite having a broken finger. He suffered the injury during catching practice on Friday and confirmed yesterday there was a fracture near a joint in his left little finger.
He took part in training yesterday, however, and will play today. "Graeme took part in the nets and did batting practice for a considerable time. He did not find any problem while in the nets and was found to be fit," said a team official. South Africa won the series opener by an innings and six runs, and need only a draw in the second and final Test to move above India and into top spot in the Test rankings.
India will be strengthened by the return of players from injury. VVS Laxman, a late withdrawal from the series opener, will be back, while Shantakumaran Sreesanth, the pace bowler, was included in the 15-man squad named yesterday, along with Dinesh Karthik and Suresh Raina. Those making way from the first Test's 15-man squad were the wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha and the pace duo of Sudip Tyagi and Abhimanyu Mithun.
South Africa thought the wicket at Eden Gardens would suit the Indian spinners while negating its own pacemen led by Dale Steyn, but the ground curator, Prabir Mukherjee, said the "wicket will be a sporting one - it would last for five days". Mukherjee denied he received any official instruction to make the pitch a turning one to help India's chances of victory. AB de Villiers, the South Africa batsman, said his side are not concerned about the speculation over the pitch. "We are not worried. There is a bit of grass on it at the moment, but I'm sure we will play on a bald track," he said.
"So we are going to just focus on our game plan and play good cricket. It should be a great challenge here at the Eden Gardens, and I am sure India will come back hard at us, so it should be a great Test match to watch. We have a good bowling attack, a solid batting attack, we are playing excellent cricket at the moment." India are well aware of the stakes in the second Test. "We have got no choice but to go for a win," said their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
"Whatever be the condition here we will be giving it our best shot. No matter how disappointing the loss at Nagpur was, it is time now to move ahead." * With agencies