The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Balaji set for maiden call-up

Calcutta: Sourav Ganguly has already made 41 international (Tests and ODIs) appearances this year, while Rahul Dravid’s ‘tally’ is 35. At the very least, both deserve a break but, with India 0-2 down in the ODIs against the West Indies, that’s not going to come about.

Clearly, the defeats in Jamshedpur and Nagpur have queered the pitch for both the captain and vice-captain — that, too, at a time when they have niggles. Moreover, there will hardly be any rest between now and the World Cup.

Given the present scenario, then, Sourav and Dravid are bound to figure in the XIV for the fourth and fifth ODIs, in Ahmedabad and Vadodara, respectively. The squad for Jodhpur and Vijayawada will be picked after the fifth ODI.

The selection for Ahmedabad and Vadodara is in Rajkot Tuesday, after the third ODI.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, Messrs Brijesh Patel, Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale are likely to effect two changes — as of late Monday, that is.

Specifically, the selectors are inclined to rest Jawagal Srinath/Ashish Nehra and Anil Kumble/Harbhajan Singh. In all probability, it will be Nehra and Kumble.

“The views of the bowlers in question could be ascertained before a decision is finally reached,” explained one of the sources.

Tipped to make the XIV are right-arm quick Lakshmipathy Balaji and left-arm spinner Murali Kartik.

Twenty-year-old Balaji, of course, hasn’t yet got a senior India call-up and, so, he appears to be just hours from his finest moment. As for Kartik, his solitary ODI appearance was versus Zimbabwe, earlier this year.

World Cup 2003

Meanwhile, the Indians are scheduled to play two warm-up matches ahead of the World Cup — in Pietermaritzburg and Chatsworth on February 4 and 6, respectively. Both will be against a Senior Provincial XI.

As the squad may leave around January 28/29 itself, an unofficial game could also be arranged.

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