The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rayudu a contender for ODIs in NZ

Calcutta, Dec.14: Teenaged Ambati Tirupati Rayudu, the youngest to score a double hundred and a hundred in the same Ranji match, has emerged a reasonably strong contender for a senior India berth.

According to well-placed sources of The Telegraph, the right-handed Rayudu stands a “fairly good chance” of making the 16 for the seven ODIs (December 26-January 14) in New Zealand. Also, the list of 30 probables for the World Cup.

Clearly, nobody has quite forgotten his explosive 170-plus during a ‘one-dayer’ against England’s U-19 outfit, in England, a few months ago. The Hyderabadi is a superb fielder, too — a top requirement in the sport’s abridged version.

Incidentally, Rayudu’s “pros and cons” were discussed in Mumbai last month, when the Test squad (16-strong) for New Zealand was chosen.

With Brijesh Patel in the chair, the selectors will be naming both the 16 and 30 in Calcutta next Wednesday.

Generally, 14 are picked for a one-day series/tournament but, with the World Cup less than two months away, a pleasing departure from tradition is on the cards.

Rayudu, one understands, is currently favoured over Dinesh Mongia. With a highest of 20 in his last five (international) innings, the latter hasn’t done his cause much good.

Actually, Mongia has contributed little after his MoM award-winning 74 in Bridgetown, earlier this year, and few now remember his Man of the Series effort versus Zimbabwe (at home, in March).

Still, Mongia does have pluses…

Of course, focussing on the balance-bit, some may even question V.V.S. Laxman’s presence. Yet, indications are that two members of the thinktank, specially, favour having him around.

However, it’s no secret that Laxman isn’t the busiest of runners between wickets. Nor, for that matter, is he the sharpest fielder. Only, at this moment, he isn’t short of influential backers.

It’s to be seen whether Patel and Co. think somewhat differently.

While Rayudu could make the cut, Anil Kumble and Yuvraj Singh are certain to head for New Zealand. There’s a question mark over Jawagal Srinath, though.

Kumble made himself unavailable for the two-Test series on “personal grounds,” while Srinath wanted a break.

Going by what well-placed sources revealed on Saturday, Shiv Sundar Das, Ajay Ratra and Murali Kartik (from the 16 already in New Zealand) are to return after the second and last Test, in Hamilton. And, not entirely in the clear is Tinu Yohannan — Srinath or even Baroda’s Irfan Pathan may take his place.

Significantly, largely owing to the distance factor, young specialist wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel is tipped to stay on. Dravid, however, will remain first-choice ’keeper during the ODIs.

It’s still quite early, but it’s possible India’s World Cup squad will have a specialist wicketkeeper.

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