Calcutta: Had rookie Irfan Pathan been a right-handed quick, Tinu Yohannan would have been at home in Trivandrum and not New Zealand. Now, he is three days from his third Test cap — first since December 2001.
Both earlier appearances were versus England, in Mohali and Ahmedabad. After that, Yohannan was largely a ‘passenger’ — getting few opportunities at any level and, equally, notdoing enough to force the thinktank into a rethink. That has changed.
Yohannan, according to The Telegraph’s sources, will replace Ashish Nehra in the Hamilton Test, the last in the two-match series. Ajit Agarkar, whose batting (on paper, at least) is a plus, will be retained.
Clearly, Nehra is paying the price for a listless show at the Basin Reserve, where he went wicketless in rather helpful conditions. Captain Sourav Ganguly, for one, has always been very encouraging and hugely supportive but, obviously, even he must have felt terribly let down.
For Yohannan, Thursday will see the start of an excellent opportunity: Not just to impress in the Test, but make a strong pitch for the ODI squad.
Both Sourav and coach John Wright have been more than satisfied with Yohannan’s effort at nets. Yet, as the lanky quick will himself acknowledge, delivering in a match proper alone counts. Who knows, the 23-year-old may prove he deserved to be picked on merit, not only because he was right-handed and could complement Zaheer Khan and Nehra on the variety-front.
Unless somebody gets injured, Yohannan-for-Nehra will be the sole change in the XI as India look to force a win and end the series 1-1.
There has been some speculation over the batting order but, in Wellington Monday, Sourav confirmed no change in status quo. “One bad match doesn’t call for a reshuffle at the top,” is what the captain declared emphatically.
Any change specific to the openers (Virender Sehwag and Sanjay Bangar) would, among other things, have conveyed straightaway reaching for the panic button. Sourav has no desire to give Stephen Fleming’s New Zealand even an iota more of psychological advantage.
Meanwhile, as reported in these columns Sunday, Anil Kumble, Yuvraj Singh and possibly uncapped Ambati Tirupati Rayudu will head to New Zealand for the seven ODIs.
The selection will be done here Wednesday.