That the squad will have 16 players was confirmed today by Board secretary Niranjan Shah, when contacted in Rajkot. The selection will be tomorrow, in Mumbai. Incidentally, it will be a first for the new (Jagmohan Dalmiya-headed) dispensation in the Board.
Neither captain Sourav Ganguly nor coach John Wright was available for comment, but The Telegraph understands the thinktank is firm on breaking with tradition—usually making do with one wicketkeeper.
Having two will surely have advantages. For one, the ‘senior’ wicketkeeper will be more on his toes. Then, a replacement will be at hand if the No.1 guy gets injured. Touring South Africa isn’t quite the same as being in Sri Lanka.
The thinktank, it seems, would prefer a second specialist wicketkeeper to a third opener (after Shiv Sundar Das and newcomer Connor Williams). More so, as nobody has performed exceptionally to merit “serious consideration”.
In other words, why have a (third) opener purely for the sake of having one? Actually, there’s a strong possibility vice-captain Rahul Dravid will be “persuaded” to stand-in (should it be absolutely necessary) as opener.
Indications are the wicketkeeper’s slot—slots, if the selectors also agree to an ‘understudy’—could take up much time at the selection meeting.
If eventually one is picked, though, chances are Samir Dighe will get the nod. But in the frame, so to say, will even be the more experienced Nayan Mongia.
Just about everybody agrees Mongia is about the best around; equally, many have very strong reservations about his “attitude”. He has already been in the dumps for seven months, and this attitude-factor is costing him dear.
A horses-for-courses policy generally calls for fielding the best horse in what undoubtedly will be a demanding course. Yet, this must also be balanced with the dressing room thoughts.
If well-placed sources are to be believed, “nobody” will be comfortable with Mongia around. And, so, despite being somewhat inconsistent, Dighe is favoured.
Dighe, obviously, is definitely more experienced than Deep Dasgupta (currently in South Africa) and rookie Ajay Ratra. His last assignment was in Sri Lanka.
Wicketkeeper No.2 will either be Deep or Ratra, who marginally lost out when the tri-series squad was picked. However, as Deep hasn’t exactly grabbed the (tri-series) opportunity with both hands, Ratra may have the last laugh this time.
Some of the selectors (led by East’s Ashok Malhotra), though, could insist on Deep getting a longer run. After all, if the axe is to fall so quickly, that won’t show the quintet in good light either. In any case, the equivalent of a hire-and-fire policy doesn’t do anybody any good.
Either way, it should be a close call.
Assuming both Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan clear yet another Board-conducted fitness test, before the selection meeting, only one bowler’s slot may actually be discussed: That of the fifth quick/mediumpacer.
As of now, veteran Venkatesh Prasad is set to stay on and fill that slot. Only, there could be some support for the younger Harvinder Singh.
Ajit Agarkar appears a certainty, but not all the selectors have been too impressed with his ‘comeback’, in the tri-series. Agarkar, however, has the team management’s full support.
Besides the wicketkeepers, the one other slot, which may lead to considerable debate, concerns the seventh batsman. The top contenders are Dinesh Mongia and Virender Sehwag. The latter is already in South Africa.
If the selectors could have it all their way, they would probably choose offie Sarandeep Singh. Sending a third spinner, though, won’t make much sense.
The first of three Tests begins in Bloemfontein, on November 3.
LIKELY SQUADOpeners: Shiv Sundar Das, Connor Williams.
Middleorder batsmen: Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S.Laxman, Dinesh Mongia/Virender Sehwag.
Wicketkeepers: Samir Dighe, Deep Dasgupta/Ajay Ratra.
Spinners: Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh.
Quicks/Mediumpacers: Jawagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Venkatesh Prasad.
GURBUX SINGH: After the 1998 Asian Games victory, we expected a lot of things, but nothing materialised. Now I hope more youngsters will take to the sport and there will be renewed interest among the sponsors.
I’m not sure how much our senior team will gain from this win. This is because seven players from this side are already playing in the senior team. They will, however, gain confidence and try to taste success against top sides of the world.
Among the ones who haven’t graduated to the senior side, Jugraj Singh is reckoned as a penalty corner specialist. He possesses a good flick but once he develops as a good full back he will be a good addition.
DR VECE PAES: The comprehensive victory has been simply great. The players need to be handled carefully.
The juniors nowadays do not have to slog at the club level or for their states before getting into the senior side. As a result, they are not hardened professionally. They don’t develop the basic mental strength required at the international level. The aim now will be to hone their basic skills and not expose them to the senior level too early.
A proper, consistent and homogeneous strategy along with skills should be imbibed to make it clear what is expected of them at the senior level. The unified system of strategy is important since each coach has a different system at all levels and the players end up with confusion at the senior level.
KESHAV DUTT: The point made by these juniors is that we have the talent to win tournaments. Unfortunately, we lack in consistency.
We should always remember that one swallow does not make a summer. Every time the team does well the nation seems to go hysteric. I am proud of these juniors but at the same time we should see to it that the success does not get to their heads.
They should be told strongly that this is only the first step of the ladder and there is still a long way to go. Practise hard and do not get carried away. Their concentration, dedication and confidence should always be in the right place.
In its letter on October 5, to the BTTA, TTFI secretary Mool Chand Chowhan stated that Soumyajeet Sarkar will not be allowed to take part in sub-junior events. In retaliation, the BTTA moved the Calcutta City Civil Court, which issued a temporary injunction, restraining the TTFI from imposing the ban.
This court order has also been availed of by the BTTA for Sukanya Bose, who was also barred by the national body from taking part in this month’s West Zone meet’s sub-junior event. A BTTA official said this was an “anticipatory” action.
The TTFI letter has cited its list of December 14, 2000, sent to the BTTA, in which certain players were stated to be overage for certain sections.
This is a part that the BTTA has contested. It feels these two players, as per a forensic lab test in Chennai earlier this year, have just about crossed the cadet stage, but are surely eligible for the sub-junior category. The BTTA calls this banning a TTFI “whim”.
Soumyajeet was cadet national champion in 1999 in Kozhikode. Last year, in the Western India meet in Rajkot he took part in cadet boys’ singles.
“He was put to medical test,” says a BTTA press release, and declared overage by a medical practitioner. “He was declared to be in the age bracket 15 and 16 years. No detailed report was furnished,” adds the release.
“On his return to Bengal he was … re-examined by the Hooghly Imambara Govt Hospital and according to detailed medical report, he was found to be in the age-group 12 and 13 years,” says the release.
Hence the trouble. And hence the court order.
The trouble between the two bodies has been affecting players for long. At a recent discussion, Amiya Gooptu, who has returned as president of the BTTA, conceded to the demand for the need of “an open-minded discussion, like adults, to try and bring the best out of both bodies.”
Maybe, this “discussion” needs to be done sooner rather than later. The problem probably is in deciding on which body takes the initiative in pushing the issue.
Gooptu is stated to be close to Probir Mitra, the man in the TTFI who is held responsible for the rift between the two bodies. This incident could lead to resumption of hostilities, or the beginning of a restructuring process.