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Injured Srinath out of second Test against Australia

NEW DELHI, March 7 (AFP) - India's pace spearhead Javagal Srinath was on Wednesday ruled out of the second Test against Australia due to an injured finger, dealing the hosts a critical blow in their bid to level the series.

Srinath, whose index finger of his right hand was broken by a rising ball from Jason Gillespie in the first Test, was left out of the 14-man squad for the second Test starting at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta on Sunday.

Srinath's announcement earlier this week that he was fit to play the key Test was brushed aside by chairman of selectors Chandu Borde, who said the injury would take longer to heal.

"My information is that he is not fit to play a five-day match," Borde said.

Srinath's injury, following the absence of spinner Anil Kumble because of shoulder surgery, has forced the confused selectors to make drastic changes in the bowling options.

They have recalled ageing left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju, while leaving out another spin veteran Narendra Hirwani, who sat among the reserves in the first Test at Bombay.

Raju, 31, played the last of his 27 Tests against the Australians at Bangalore in 1998. The Hyderabad spinner is eight wickets away from reaching the 100 mark.

Left-arm spinner Rahul Sanghvi, who claimed two wickets in the first Test which Australia won by 10 wickets with two days to spare, was also sacked.

He was replaced by off-spinner Sharandeep Singh, who took six wickets on his debut against Zimbabwe in November and followed that with a five-wicket haul against the Australians in a three-day match here.

Sharandeep joins his Punjab team-mate Harbhajan Singh in the squad, but his hopes of playing the Test rests on the Eden Gardens curator providing a spin-friendly wicket.

The Indians will also be without Srinath's new ball partner Ajit Agarkar, who went down with viral fever soon after recording his seventh consecutive zero against the Australians at Bombay.

Seasoned medium-pacer Venkatesh Prasad and young left-armer Ashish Nehra join Zaheer Khan in the three-man pace attack.

The 32-year-old Prasad, who has 85 wickets from 29 Tests, returns to the five-day game after two seasons.

Nehra played one Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 1999, claiming just one wicket.

"We will look at the track before deciding to play two or three spinners," Borde said.

While the bowling attack was reshuffled, the selectors retained the six specialist batsmen, led by captain Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid.

The Indian squad:
Sourav Ganguly (captain), Shiv Das, Sadagopan Ramesh, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Nayan Mongia, Harbhajan
Singh, Sharandeep Singh, Venkatapathy Raju, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Venkatesh Prasad, Hemang Badani.
Coach: John Wright

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