The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vikram Rathore in contention
- Back problem may keep Sourav out

Sahara Lake City (Maharashtra): Given the number of players with injuries — and the medical certificates to consider — it won’t be a bad idea for the Board to have a doctor as special invitee at Wednesday’s selection committee meeting in Mumbai.

With Brijesh Patel in the chair, the selectors will pick XV for the April 11-20 tri-series in Dhaka.

While the injuries to Sachin Tendulkar, vice-captain Rahul Dravid and Ashish Nehra have been fairly well documented, two hot contenders — V.V.S. Laxman and Murali Kartik — are also understood to be nursing injuries.

Moreover, captain Sourav Ganguly himself isn’t fully fit. He has had a back problem for quite some time and a lack of ample rest has only aggravated it. Indeed, it won’t surprise if that troublesome back eventually forces the captain to stay at home.

Actually, Brijesh and his colleagues (Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale) are bound to have a tough time in putting together the best (available) XV. After all, one learns, Anil Kumble and Jawagal Srinath too have conveyed their non-availability.

With the pre-selection scenario so fluid, it’s difficult making any prediction. However, according to The Telegraph’s sources, veteran batsman-wicketkeeper Vikram Rathore is very much in contention. While Parthiv Patel should be an automatic selection, there’s a reasonable chance the selectors will look at Rathore as Dravid’s replacement.

Of course, Ajay Ratra’s name is sure to be floated. Significantly, Rathore’s last India appearance was in Bulawayo, all of six years ago.

Then, three youngsters are being strongly tipped: Delhi’s Gautam Gambhir, Hyderabad’s young Ambati Tirupati Rayudu and Mumbai’s Avishkar Salvi. It’s to be seen, though, whether all three will make it.

An absolute dark horse, by the way, is Himachal allrounder Sandeep Sharma. He is being talked about but, at 29, isn’t exactly a spring chicken.

Incidentally, should Kartik not be available, the door could open for Sairaj Bahutule. Even Sourashish Lahiri may come into the frame somewhat. Assuming that Kumble won’t be considered of his own accord, Harbhajan Singh will be the senior spinner.

Where the new ball bowlers are concerned, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan are certainties, while Salvi is favoured to get his maiden senior India call-up. Sanjay Bangar, in any case, will be there.

As for the batsmen, the slots will be taken by Sourav (for now, at least), Virender Sehwag, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Mongia. If fit, Laxman will also be there and, then, Gambhir stands a good chance. In the picture too will be Rayudu.

Except for Rakesh Patel, picked out of the blue for the ODIs in New Zealand, the current selection committee hasn’t surprised during the first six months of its tenure. However, given the ‘build-up’ to Wednesday’s meeting, a Patel-like repeat can’t be ruled out.

Meanwhile, though Sourav will be present when Brijesh and Co. begin deliberations, the views of coach John Wright (in New Zealand, at the moment) will probably be sought over the phone.

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