| Sourav Ganguly at the nets in Rawalpindi on Sunday. (Reuters)
Islamabad: A nearly half-hour chat between Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid in the Marriott’s coffee shop late on Sunday afternoon put the seal on Yuvraj Singh opening in Rawalpindi, but there’s still an outside chance of the captain deciding to partner Virender Sehwag.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, Sourav gave “some thought” to promoting himself as (a) the wicket at the Pindi Cricket Stadium is a greentop and Yuvraj hasn’t even opened in ODIs; (b) Yuvraj is one of two batsmen — the other being Sachin Tendulkar — to have got runs in the middle-order. So, disturbing him wouldn’t be such a great idea...
In fact, Sourav sparked off considerable speculation by ‘opening’ Sunday’s nets session with Sehwag — incidentally, India’s sole triple centurion has a stiff back, but should be absolutely fine for the deciding Test (the 50th between the two countries) which begins on Tuesday.
Later, of course, Sourav went back to his original plan which envisaged dropping Akash Chopra (who has done all the ‘dirty’ work for the past six months) and moving Yuvraj to the very top. A ‘problem’ arose because the newest Chandigarh da puttar scored a superb century at the Gaddafi, filling-in for Sourav.
Significantly, Chopra batted much later at nets — confirming he would have no role in the decider.
While Sourav wasn’t available for comment, coach John Wright admitted a “tough decision” has to be made. “Opening is for specialists, but Sehwag has done a fine job even though he still prefers the middle-order,” he said, adding: “We will look at all options, including not disturbing the openers (Sehwag and Chopra)...”
Yet, in much the same breath, Wright pointed out he would “only” offer his opinion and give Sourav the liberty to decide “after consulting the seniors.”
Actually, bottomline is that the call is entirely going to be the captain’s, who returns to the XI after missing the first two Tests.
His choice is Yuvraj.
Sourav apart, Ashish Nehra is certain to make a return and will take Ajit Agarkar’s place. The attack, however, is going to be spearheaded by Irfan Pathan, with Lakshmipathy Balaji in a supporting cast. Anil Kumble will be the lone specialist spinner.
Rookies don’t inspire Inzy
Meanwhile, Pakistan have deferred the pruning of their squad from 17 to 15 — now, that’s going to be done on Monday. Apparently, captain Inzamam-ul Haq isn’t satisfied with two of the quicks (Rao Iftikhar Anjum and Abdul Rauf) and probably wishes to see them one more time.
As of now, one understands Fazle Akbar and Rana Naveed-ul-Hasan will make the cut. Akbar should even feature in the XI.
Incidentally, Mohammed Sami skipped Sunday’s nets as he is recovering from “food poisoning.” If he doesn’t get fit, it’s going to be one more blow for Pakistan, who have already lost Gaddafi hero Umar Gul and Shabbir Ahmed.
Wright, though, isn’t reading too much into Pakistan’s worry over the new-ball bowlers: “They found Gul (once Shabbir pulled out) in Lahore and, well, we all know what he did...”
That we certainly do.