| THE SQUAD
| • Batsmen: Rahul Dravid (captain), V.V.S. Laxman, Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Yalaka Venugopal Rao, Suresh Raina
• Allrounder: Jai Prakash Yadav.
• Wicketkeeper: Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
• Spinners: Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh.
• Mediumpacers: Ashish Nehra , Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan.
• 16th member: Sourav Ganguly
Bangalore: Young Uttar Pradesh lefthander Suresh Raina and Andhra Pradesh batsman Yalaka Venugopal Rao are the two new faces in the squad announced for the tri-series in Sri Lanka beginning July 30. Railways allrounder Jai Prakash Yadav makes a comeback after three years.
[That Raina and Rao were strong contenders and Yadav the dark horse was reported by The Telegraph on Sunday-Monday.]
The national selectors named Rahul Dravid as captain and included Sourav Ganguly, subject to ICC clearance. Sourav, serving a six-match ban from ODIs, was provisionally included as the 16th member, although his participation is subject to the ban being lifted in time for the series.
V.V.S. Laxman was also back in the one-day fold. Anil Kumble, too, has been included. Instead of looking too far ahead ' specifically the 2007 World Cup ' subcontinent conditions were given preference and it merited two spinners.
BCCI secretary S.K. Nair said the selection committee considered Sourav’s case and decided to include him provisionally. “He will tour Sri Lanka if the ban is lifted,” Nair said.
Raina and Rao were rewarded for their consistent performances in the domestic circuit and during India A’s recent engagements. The 18-year-old Raina has already scored 1092 runs at an average of 43.67 in 25 first class matches and is reported to have impressed coach Greg Chappell and the seniors by his dedication and commitment. A left-handed bat, Raina could also be handy with his off-spinners in the shorter version of the game.
The 23-year-old Rao has an impressive average of 53.52, having compiled 3907 runs in 52 first class matches.
Yadav played the last of his two one-dayers in 2002 and has forced his way back into reckoning on account of his allround skills which were on display in recent months.
The squad, which has four specialist seamers ' Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan and Lakshmipathy Balaji ' will have Virender Sehwag as the vice-captain. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Jharkhand livewire who has excelled with the bat, is the lone specialist wicketkeeper.
Raina and Rao say their inclusion is a result of hard work and dedication. “I am very happy' I worked for it,” says Raina.
Making no secret that Dravid is his idol, the elegant left-hander said he has been working with Dravid himself during the fitness and cricket skills camp.
Rao believes his impressive performance in the domestic season did the trick. Noting that he did well in the Ranji Trophy and Deodhar and Duleep Trophy engagements, Rao said he was confident that he would get the nod. On Sunday, he again impressed with the bat in a benefit match, notching 91 runs. (Agencies)