London: India pacer Ishant Sharma must continue his encouraging Day One show if India are to keep the England batsmen in check for rest of the Oval Test.
If Praveen Kumar's injured ankle had healed to a point where he could run in and continue his show of commitment on this tour of England, Rudra Pratap (RP) Singh would not have opened the bowling for India on Thursday.
But hang on, wasn't RP set to replace S Sreesanth in the playing XI in any case? Yes, but strange are the ways of India on this tour. RP came into the squad as a replacement for Zaheer Khan and his chances of playing this Test magnified because he has had some level of success bowling in England -- 12 wickets in three Tests here in 2007.
But Dhoni stuck with Sreesanth, who did not bowl to potential in Trent Bridge and Edgbaston. Ishant Sharma, who has been in all playing XIs in this series, bowled impressively. He broke Andrew Strauss' helmet and the pundits here were more surprised by Ishant's prowess than the quality of the England skipper's protective gear.
While Ishant stood out, RP and Sreesanth continued to be harmless in conditions which suited bowlers.
Evidence of that is rain contributed to a truncated day of cricket. That's India's first break of the tour, joked a journalist, as Strauss examined the damaged part of his helmet with the scoreboard reading 48 for no loss.
Ishant's encouraging display augers well for India.
RP didn't do justice to the opening bowler's role. His run-up and deliveries caused no excitement whatsoever although that does not mean he cannot get his act together today.
Four years ago...
Yesterday, it seemed unbelievable that four years ago, England captain Michael Vaughan paid a big tribute to him by saying India's bowling attack taught his team a thing or two. "We've been asked different questions against the left-arm angles which we haven't seen before," said Vaughan after the 2007 draw at the Oval which gave India their first Test series win in England since 1986.
Suresh Raina's recent failures have not been taken too seriously by Dhoni and hence he retained his place. Raina played well in the second innings of the Lord's Test for his 78 after his first innings duck. But thereafter, his run of scores has been 12, 1, 4 and 10.
What options did Dhoni have? Abhinav Mukund, who scored a hundred in the tour game at Northampton, or Virat Kohli, who may have had a rough time in the West Indies, but is Yuvraj Singh's replacement all right.
Hopefully, Dhoni's supreme confidence in his young gun is justified because Raina has become some sort of a freebie for the England quick bowlers.