With off-spinner R Ashwin almost certain to make his World Cup debut against the West Indies on Sunday, the Indian team management is now sweating it out to decide who will share the new ball with Zaheer Khan as the second pacer in the playing XI.
According to sources, Team India is divided between Munaf Patel and Ashish Nehra.
If some members of the team are banking on Munaf's recent form, the others are backing Nehra for his wealth of experience. Sources said that the final call on this is yet to be taken, but Nehra enjoys considerable backing of some of the top players in the team. Will this translate into Nehra getting the nod for the West Indies match?
But this is of great significance for Nehra, especially at a time when the Delhi pacer is been getting a lot of flak for conceding 13 runs in the last over against South Africa on last Saturday. While Munaf has taken nine wickets in the World Cup so far, Nehra has claimed four from two outings in the tournament. "It's a tough call for the team management for sure. Clearly, Munaf is bowling well but Nehra is backed by the seniors despite that last over against South Africa," another team insider told TOI.
Backing someone in a crisis is heartening, especially for a team whose bowling attack lacks consistency. But for former Indian medium-pacer Manoj Prabhakar, Nehra does not look the right option. "If one has to pick either of the two, I would bat for Munaf. Nehra is not looking confident as a bowler right now," Prabhakar, who coached the Delhi Ranji team this season for which Nehra plays, feels.
Agreed another former medium-pacer Roger Binny. "Going by the current form, Munaf has the upper hand. Ideally, Nehra would have been the first pick, but of late he has struggled with injuries and hasn't played regular competitive cricket for the last two months. So, it's showing in his bowling performance. You need at least two or three matches under your belt to get your rhythm right," Binny said.