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Agarkar likely for fireworks

Calcutta: With a mere 14 ODIs remaining before India’s opening game in the 2003 World Cup against The Netherlands in Paarl, attempting anything new can’t be put on hold indefinitely.

And, so, the start of the seven-match series versus the West Indies — the last set of ODIs at home before the World Cup, in Jamshedpur Wednesday, may see captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright ‘experiment’ on the odd slot.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, both are in favour of “grooming” a pinch-hitter. While Ajit Agarkar is currently the favourite, Jai Prakash Yadav — who made the Champions Trophy squad but returned without playing a single game — could come into the picture later.

Pinch-hitting is one area where the Indians haven’t paid much attention but, belatedly at least, that is now being thought of. It’s to be seen, though, whether the option is exercised in Jamshedpur or later in the series.

[India’s last set of ODIs, before the World Cup, will be in New Zealand.]

In fact, if Agarkar is fielded at the Keenan, the Indian XI will see five specialist bowlers, with Agarkar having that double role. At the moment, the toss-up is between Agarkar and Dinesh Mongia (Sachin Tendulkar’s replacement). Yadav and Sanjay Bangar aren’t in the running for first XI berths.

Barring the Agarkar/Mongia selection, the remaining slots are booked: Sourav, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra.

Security factor

Meanwhile, security-wise, nothing has been left to chance in Jamshedpur. The official hotel (The Regent), for instance, has introduced photo ID cards for employees and guests — except the cricketers, of course.

Incidentally, the (reactivated) Bihar Cricket Association, which is hosting the ODI, is headed by Amitabh Choudhary, a former Jamshedpur SP. More than anybody else, then, he knows exactly what should be enforced.

Both India and the West Indies reached Jamshedpur Monday afternoon. They first flew to Ranchi and, then, drove across to Jharkhand’s most happening city.

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