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Dhoni stands a good chance
- Team India Selection
Question over Zaheer Khan’s fitness; Dinesh Mongia is a contender
Mongia
Dhoni
Zaheer

Calcutta: Bihar’s Mahender Singh Dhoni, currently in Zimbabwe with the India A squad, stands a good chance of making the Team India XIV/XV for the tri-series in Holland and the two events in England: The bilateral NatWest Challenge and the Champions Trophy.

While the ICC-conducted Champions Trophy has provision for only XIV, the selectors — chairman Syed Kirmani, Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale — may pick XV for the first two engagements when they meet here on Thursday afternoon.

The August 21-28 tri-series has world champions Australia and Pakistan as the other sides. The NatWest Challenge, against England, features three matches between September 1 and 5. As for the (second) Champions Trophy, it’s going to be held from September 10-25.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, Parthiv Patel will be dropped and, so, the specialist wicketkeeper’s berth is going to be up for grabs.

“Frankly, Parthiv isn’t suited for ODIs… We need somebody who can be effective with the bat… The injury to (V.V.S) Laxman in the Asia Cup has been an eye-opener… Parthiv had to step in, but couldn’t quite do the job,” is how one of the sources put it on Wednesday evening.

Dhoni is the frontrunner, specially after his showing in the second first-class game in Zimbabwe (versus the Select XI) where he had 11 victims — six coming in the first innings.

Apparently, captain Sourav Ganguly has indicated that the man in form (in Zimbabwe) will be his choice.

Of course, Tamil Nadu’s Dinesh Karthik (also in Zimbabwe) is very much in the frame. It’s to be seen, though, whether fifties (96 and 52) in each of the first two matches in Zimbabwe is going to be enough.

Dhoni, by the way, had a 45 in that second game. He didn’t play the tour-opener.

While Parthiv is certain to go out, there’s a question mark over Zaheer Khan’s fitness and, as a result, his selection. He did pass a strenuous ‘test’ in Colombo, but not everybody is convinced he is actually there one hundred per cent.

Should Kirmani and Co. decide to rest him, the door will open for Ajit Agarkar, who is turning out for Middlesex.

One understands there’s going to be a “debate, at least” over retaining Mohammed Kaif as his contribution in the Asia Cup was negligible.

Kaif totalled no more than 62 in five matches and, worse, ran himself out twice — against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in the tournament’s second phase.

However, right now, the selectors may not take the extreme step.

THE EXPECTED LINE-UP
Certainties: Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan.

Strongly placed wicketkeeper: Mahender Singh Dhoni. In the frame, too, is Dinesh Karthik

Could hold on: Mohammed Kaif.
Question mark: Zaheer Khan. If rested, Ajit Agarkar will benefit.

XVth player: Dinesh Mongia has emerged a strong contender. Also in the reckoning are Hemang Badani and Rohan Gavaskar.

The bigger debate, though, is bound to be over the XVth player — assuming one is picked for the tri-series and the NatWest Challenge.

Besides the usual contenders — Hemang Badani, Rohan Gavaskar and, to a lesser extent, Sridharan Sriram — the selectors (as also Sourav and coach John Wright) could actively consider recalling Dinesh Mongia.

Mongia has been out in the cold after the April 2003 tri-series in Dhaka but, in recent weeks, has been prolific for Lancashire.

“Look, runs on the County circuit hold more value than scoring in Zimbabwe… Moreover, Mongia has been in England for some time and acclimatising won’t be a problem…” explained another source.

Incidentally, Mongia didn’t figure in the pre-season list of 20 probables.

The rest, predictably, pick themselves.

Wright’s extension

Meanwhile, it’s learnt that extending Wright’s (and physio Andrew Leipus’) contract “isn’t an issue” for the Board. Leipus has been around from October 1999; Wright took charge in November 2000.

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