Hemang Badani cleared for flight to Dhaka
Bagan confirm participation
SAI make sure of title

Pune, May 22 
Tamil Nadu’s impressive 23-year-old southpaw Hemang Badani has, finally, got his maiden senior India call-up.

A hard-hitting batsman and brilliant fielder, Badani can also be counted upon for some economical overs of spin. He’s not exactly an allrounder, but careful handling could see him emerge as one.

Badani is the only full-fledged rookie in the XIV picked for the Asia Cup in Dhaka (May 28-June 8). That he was strongly favoured was reported in these columns Monday. In fact, The Telegraph’s XIV tallies with the selectors’ choice.

Also in is Amit Bhandari. While he hasn’t earned an India cap, it’s not a first time call-up for the Delhi quick either.

There are four omissions from the last selection (Sharjah, though that team had 15 players): Mohammed Kaif, S. Sriram, Venkatesh Prasad and Jawagal Srinath.

According to chief selector Chandu Borde, veteran Vinod Kambli, Sriram and the U-19 World Cup-winning captain Kaif were “discussed” for the one batting slot for grabs, but Badani’s fielding gave him the edge.

Borde added: “Also, coach Kapil Dev (present at the meeting, with captain Sourav Ganguly) informed Badani was outstanding in the conditioning camp (which ended today)… That, too, gave the youngster an edge.”

It also must have helped that Madanlal was present: As the India A and colts’ coach, back in the mid-Nineties, Madan always had nothing but praise for Badani.

The only other contentious selection was that of the wicketkeeper. Syed Saba Karim retained his berth, leaving Nayan Mongia with a long face, but he has to deliver with a capital D. That Sourav has immense faith in Saba Karim’s ability alone won’t do.

Incidentally East’s representative on the committee, Ashok Malhotra, had to work overtime behind the scenes to boost Saba Karim’s chances. Till last evening, after all, it was touch-and-go. Borde, however, insisted it’s not the end of the road for Mongia. “Saba Karim’s batting took him past Mongia,” he explained.

Intriguingly, the city-based chief selector sought to ‘push’ through Hrishikesh Kanitkar (at the expense of Nikhil Chopra), but Pune may have to wait quite a while before again finding representation in the India line-up.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi is one of those who lost out. “We discussed him at length, but couldn’t slot him. But, yes, he’s a very fine prospect and a strong contender,” remarked Borde, talking sensibly after an earlier gaffe (“Kambli is today seen as good for Tests only”).

In the circumstances, the selectors have actually done an excellent job, though the new-ball attack is terribly thin on experience. Senior-most here is Ajit Agarkar, with Thiru Kumaran and Bhandari for support.

The selectors should have persisted with Prasad —- he didn’t even make the probables’ shortlist of 25 —- but they believe it’s time to “try out” new faces. Well, let’s hope either Kumaran or Bhandari makes capital of this opportunity.

According to Board secretary Jaywant Lele, Srinath will be available for selection from August. “He has asked for a break till July-end,” Lele informed.

The players (sans Anil Kumble and vice-captain Rahul Dravid) assemble in New Delhi on Saturday evening and fly to Dhaka the next afternoon. As the team is expected to take the British Airways’ London-Delhi-Dhaka flight, the jumbo could land in New Delhi with Dravid and Kumble already on board.

A “communication gap,” by the way, saw both Sourav and Kapil absent at the Media briefing. Kapil left the Poona Club, after the 80-minute meeting, saying “the captain” would answer questions. But Sourav went the same way as neither Lele nor Borde asked him to stay back.

It definitely wasn’t “communication gap” No.1 and it certainly won’t be the last.    

Calcutta, May 22 
Mohun Bagan have confirmed participation in the forthcoming Millennium Cup tournament in Pondicherry, to be played from June 4 to 18.

According to the organisers, Tollygunge Agragami, too, are scheduled to take part in the meet.

After participating in the McDowell Cup — the final is scheduled for May 11 — Mohun Bagan will fly to Pondicherry. Their first match will be either on May 13 or 14.

Cluster matches

BNR thrashed CFC 6-0 at Kamargachi in a cluster match of the McDowell soccer tournament today. Swapan Das and Balai Mondal scored twice each, while Subhasish Chakraborty and Kamal Ghosh completed the tally.    

Calcutta, May 22 
SAI Training Centre made sure of the BHA League first division group A title today, when they got a walkover from West Bengal Police.

In another group A encounter, CC&FC and Howrah Union played out a goalless draw.

The sudden downpour in the afternoon washed out the Kaivan Cup final between BSF North Bengal and Sporting Union, and the while Lakshmibilash Cup match between CC&FC and Police AC.    


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