Injuries Hit Team India, Dravid, VVS, Yuvi Out
India might have a tough time holding on to their No.1 Test rank because of a spate of injuries to key players just days ahead of the high-profile home series against No. 2 team South Africa.
Skipper MS Dhoni will be praying at least some of his frontline middle order batsmen are fit enough to take the fight to Graeme Smith's men but it looks unlikely at the moment, reports Times of India.
India have a huge problem on their hands with Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh struggling with major injuries, but the team's problems don't end there.
Even pacer S Sreesanth strained his hamstring and returned home from Bangladesh to undergo rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy, making for a very tricky selection committee meeting in Mumbai on Thursday to pick the squad for the two-Test series, slated for February 6 (Nagpur) and February 14 (Kolkata).
The series, scheduled in at the last minute after India became No. 1, is being billed as the World Championship of Cricket and is likely to generate huge interest as South Africa are bidding to regain the top spot after a disappointing series against England.
India, though, might have to bank on their second-string, in the likes of Murali Vijay, S Badrinath and Dinesh Karthik, to hold on to the top spot for the moment. With no Tests scheduled in the coming months, the team will get very few opportunities to regain the top rank if they concede defeat here.
In Mirpur, coach Gary Kirsten virtually ruled out Dravid - who was hit on the jaw by a bouncer on Monday and had to be hospitalised - and Yuvraj from the Nagpur Test.
"Yuvi has a torn cartilage on his wrist and will be out for a while. He will be struggling for the first Test (against South Africa). As for Dravid, he is also not sure. He has got quite a nasty injury to his face (jawline fracture). Currently both are still in Bangladesh.
"Later, Dravid will consult a specialist to find out what needs to be done and how long he will be out. For Rahul, we don't have the long-term prognosis. It is a bit of concern because we want a full-strength side against South Africa," Kirsten said, adding: "It is a difficult situation we are in. But you cannot do anything about injuries. It's out of our control.
"We have to wait and watch and see where these players stand in the few days ahead."
VVS Laxman returned home after injuring his left hand while fielding at slip in the first Test against Bangladesh, and the team suffered another nasty scare on Tuesday when Sachin Tendulkar fell in his shoulder while attempting to latch on to a top edge from Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal. Kirsten, though, said, "Sachin is all right, he is quite fine."
India are currently on 124 ratings points, four ahead of South Africa's 120 at No. 2. If they beat Bangladesh 2-0 in the ongoing series as expected, they will go up to 125 and further consolidate their lead by a point, making for an extremely interesting scenario ahead of the SA series.
According to ICC's formula, if SA beat India 2-0, they will immediately regain their No. 1 status, surging ahead to 124 ratings points while India slip to 120.
In case of a 1-1 draw, India will regain the No.1 rank but slip by a point to 124. This holds true also if both matches fail to produce results.
A 1-0 win will help India regain the top spot (127 ratings points compared to SA's 118), but a 1-0 result in SA's favour will see them regaining the No. 1 rank by a solitary ratings point: 123 compared to India's 122.
This makes it imperative for India to play their best personnel to defend the top spot.