MELBOURNE - India may have to wait a little longer to see Bhuvneshwar Kumar in action in Australia as captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni indicated the seamer's injured ankle could keep him out of the third test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, starting on Friday.
The 24-year-old was the most impressive player in India's 3-1 defeat in England earlier this year and was considered vital for his team's chances in the four-test series in Australia.
But the injury sidelined him for the first two test defeats and could also keep him out of the Boxing Day test, which the hosts need only to draw to seal the series.
"He has started bowling, he bowled during nets in the last test also, but we want to load him with a bit more with bowling," Dhoni told reporters on Thursday.
"But as far as his fitness is concerned he is fit and also available for selection.
"But test-match fitness is slightly different, you may be fit but you have to see five days of load, how many overs you can bowl, what the situation may be. You actually prepare for the worst when it comes to fitness in test cricket."
Kumar was not only the most successful bowler for India in England with 19 wickets, he delivered some stoic resistance with the bat lower down the order - something India desperately missed during the first two defeats in Australia.
While India usually keep a tight lid on their team selection until the very last minute, comments from Dhoni on Thursday suggested limited-overs specialist Suresh Raina may replace Rohit Sharma in the middle order.
Sharma has aggregated 81 from his four innings in the series and could make way for Raina, who last played a test match in August 2012 against New Zealand at home.
"He has been working hard on his cricket and we will reflect once he gets a game," Dhoni said of Raina, who has played 17 tests for India.
"We need a player like him, reason being apart from being a good batsman he is also a good bowler, so if there is some turn he can bowl a bit.
"He is someone who can bowl quite consistently. He can give me those 10-15 overs if it is really needed. So that's one area where we have been lacking in this set-up.
"There are not many batsmen who actually bowl. So we are trying to get batsmen to bowl so we can give a bit of rest needed for fast bowlers."