London: India are set to be without Virender Sehwag for the first two Tests against England and there is still no definite timetable for his return following the shoulder surgery that ruled him out of the West Indies tour.
It had already been announced that Sehwag will be joining the tour two weeks late after being given extra time to recover at home but uncertainty remains over the seriousness of his problem. "We've heard that he'll be over here for maybe the third and fourth Test, so we're crossing our fingers for that," Duncan Fletcher, the India coach, said.
On the recent tour of West Indies, India had an entirely new opening combination with Gautam Gambhir also missing out with an injury. Abhinav Mukund partnered Murali Vijay for the three matches and did enough to secure a berth to England having made 147 runs at in six innings.
Mukund now faces the prospect of joining forces with Gambhir to face England's new-ball attack at Lord's and Trent Bridge. MS Dhoni wants his side to be given a solid platform but knows Sehwag's boots are tough to fill. "We are a side that relies on our openers quite a bit," he said. "If we get off to a good start then we can really capitalise with the middle order we have.
"As far as Virender Sehwag is concerned, there aren't many cricketers in the world who can have the impact he can. Of course we'll miss him, but the good thing for Indian cricket is it gives a chance to a youngster like Mukund who can have a look at international cricket and see what areas he needs to improve. Viru will be back at some point, but it's good to have Gautam back as well."
Sehwag, though, is just one part of a formidable batting line-up that will include the returning Sachin Tendulkar along with Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Fletcher also believes that the tough batting conditions India faced in West Indies will stand them in good stead for the series ahead.
"In West Indies, without some top players, they played on some spicy wickets - two like I'd never been involved with before - it was really quick, it bounced and seamed," he said. "They handled it well. So we feel they are in a good space at the moment and can carry on."
Dhoni, meanwhile, isn't overly concerned that India only have their three-day match against Somerset as preparation because the team are coming off their hard-fought series in the Caribbean, although he may have been lulled slightly by the warm day on Thursday. The forecast isn't so promising.
"The West Indian climate is quite different but there's nice weather here for cricket. I don't think there's too much pressure on us to acclimatise," he said. "The last two days we've had fantastic net sessions. In West Indies, wickets were slightly different. It was a challenge for the batsmen because shot-playing wasn't very easy. Over here it might be a bit different because the outfield should be miles faster than what we had in West Indies."