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Mongia set to oust Laxman
- Parthiv Patel almost certain to make cut, Reetinder Singh Sodhi is dark horse

Calcutta: Had circumstances been different, heads would have rolled after yet another one-day defeat (sixth in the last nine matches), Sunday. However, the World Cup is no stage to experiment and, so, V.V.S. Laxman alone could get the chop.

“As the 15 will be named Monday itself, we can’t now look at ‘new’ faces… Doing so will neither be fair on those players, nor will it be fair to the captain and coach,” is what a well-placed source told The Telegraph, a few hours after the inexplicable loss in Napier.

Therefore, even as chief selector Brijesh Patel and his colleagues (Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale) pick the “best 15,” they may not entirely be comfortable with every choice they make.

[The quintet will be “briefed” by Board president Jagmohan Dalmiya before their meeting gets underway at the Dr B.C.Roy Club House here. Incidentally, three selectors — Patel, Azad and More — are themselves World Cuppers.]

Laxman, of course, hasn’t been the sole failure among batsmen, in New Zealand, but he definitely is among the slowest movers. In other words, a liability.

He did get three quality fifties in the recent home series, against the West Indies, but has failed in the last four ODIs.

Laxman, then, is set to be replaced by Dinesh Mongia. The latter can bat anywhere and, just as important, is an outstanding fielder. An asset, in other words.

Even if some have reservations, John Wright is bound to pitch for him strongly during his and Sourav Ganguly’s tele-conference with the selectors.

Given Wright’s conviction that the 15 must include the “best fielders,” there’s a reasonable chance he could also make a strong case for Reetinder Singh Sodhi.

Actually, after the horrors at McLean Park, specially, Sourav does need to be backed by the “best fielders.”

Sodhi, in fact, is pretty much the dark horse. Only, if he is to make the cut, it will have to be at Sanjay Bangar’s expense.

It’s not insignificant, perhaps, that Sourav has much faith in Bangar…

The one other player under some pressure is Anil Kumble.

One understands at least two of the five selectors are strongly in rival Murali Kartik’s favour. On the other hand, the captain and coach are likely to call for the veteran — as they did for the present set of engagements in New Zealand.

Eventually, therefore, Kumble should head for his third World Cup in succession.

For Parthiv Patel, though, the February 8-March 24 edition will be his first. It’s confirmed that India will have a specialist wicketkeeper in the 15, as cover for vice-captain Rahul Dravid. Equally, it’s as good as confirmed that slot will go to the teenager.

Parthiv would have been on tenterhooks had Deep Dasgupta (the only other specialist among the 30 probables) consistently got runs and victims. He hasn’t and, so, doesn’t really deserve a place.

Clearly, the only way for Deep to get in is courtesy an ‘arrangement’ among the selectors. However, as of late Sunday, there was no indication they would spring a surprise in the Rakesh Patel-mould.

Let’s hope they don’t — after all, this isn’t the time to either pluck a rookie out of the hat or revive somebody’s career.

LIKELY XV

Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Mongia, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Sanjay Bangar, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra.

Dark horse: Reetinder Singh Sodhi.

Outside chance: Murali Kartik.

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