The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Greenish wicket, politics and...
- Chopra comes into the frame to partner Sehwag; Sourav undergoes MRI on right thigh

Nagpur: Nobody is willing to be quoted, but it appears Board politics has taken root in the lead-up to the third Test, which Team India must win if hopes of bagging the four-match series are to be kept alive.

The Australians, after all, are ahead 1-0.

According to The Telegraph's sources, a Board mandarin was (on Sunday) requested to 'intervene' and ensure that grass from the unusually greenish VCA Stadium wicket was taken off. He replied the host association wouldn't oblige as it opposes the current dispensation.

No matter how shocking that, whispers suggest a below-par performance by the Sourav Gangulys Tuesday onwards will 'affect' the Jagmohan Dalmiya-guided Establishment... It's dumbfounding, really.

Perhaps, it's not insignificant that Vidarbha Cricket Association supremo Shashank Manohar has already gone on record saying 'nobody can order us to remove any grass.'

An unusual remark but, then, one is witnessing unusual things.

The Board has (rightly) talked of fast and sporting wickets but, surely, every country makes the most of home advantage. Indeed, it's inconceivable either Australia, England or South Africa are going to greet India with turners.

The 'damage', though, has been done as the Test isn't many hours away. Actually, the no-cracks-wicket has not only surprised the Glenn McGraths, but veteran umpire David Shepherd as well.

Speaking exclusively, he said: 'Does look like one back in En-gland... However, there's still time between now and the start.' He probably expects an 'operation' to be mounted before the wicket is handed over to him and Aleem Dar.

While the home team management had been made to see red, on the 'positive' side, the wicket has brought specialist opener Akash Chopra back in the frame to partner Virender Sehwag.

Chopra was dropped after the first Test (Bangalore), but there's a school of thought which doesn't discount omitting both Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif to allow Sachin Tendulkar and Chopra to make the XI.

Kaif, though, got an important 64 in the second Test (Chennai). On the other hand, if the axe just falls on the out-of-form Yuvraj, the captain and coach will have no choice but to promote Parthiv Patel as No. 2 opener for the second time in four Tests.

The big problem is that Parthiv's wicketkeeping is itself under pressure and a double role may prove too much.

The team management, one gathers, is awaiting the selectors' arrival before finalising the batting line-up. However, what's co-nfirmed is that Ajit Agarkar is going to take the injured Irfan Pathan's berth.

It will be yet another comeback for Agarkar.

Meanwhile, Sourav's right thigh ' which suffered a tear in the first Test ' was subjected to another MRI late on Sunday. The captain, though, insisted there's 'no need to worry.' He added: 'I'm going to continue taking precautions...'

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