The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav return in squad not guaranteed
- ‘Everything is down to numbers’; today could be the former captain’s longest day
Sourav Ganguly

Chandigarh: For the first time since his comeback in the summer of 1996, Sourav Ganguly’s immediate future is going to be decided by numbers. Seemed unthinkable when he got back the Team India captaincy for Zimbabwe, in mid-August, but much has changed.

The senior national selectors, it may be recalled, ignored Sourav for the first two ODIs of the ongoing series against Sri Lanka as he wasn’t fit when they met in neighbouring Mohali a fortnight ago.

Kiran More and his colleagues ' Yashpal Sharma, Pranab Roy, Gopal Sharma and V.B.Chandrasekhar ' meet again, on Friday, to choose XV for the next three ODIs. Yet, despite Sourav’s superb 117 in the Duleep match versus North (an innings which proved both fitness and form), his return isn’t guaranteed.

“It’s a tough call and everything is down to numbers... Two of the five selectors stand opposed and there’s no certainty that the remaining three will vote for him,” a well-placed source told The Telegraph late on Thursday.

Then, the Greg Chappell factor is there. The coach doesn’t have a vote, but his views are going to be respected by the quintet. Ditto where captain Rahul Dravid is concerned. Chappell, at least, is unlikely to be enthusiastic about having Sourav back in the dressing room.

For the record, the politically very pucca Dravid kept himself away from the Sourav issue. Asked at a Media conference whether his predecessor would be back Jaipur onwards, he said: “It’s for the selectors to decide.”

That Team India won big in the first ODI, in Nagpur on Tuesday, could make the Sourav-baiters more bold. Specifically, there can be a push towards “continuity.” However, if the performance isn’t on much the same lines in match No.2, then the case for Sourav may become strong.

As of now, the selectors are to meet after the day-night ODI gets over. Sourav, incidentally, was the MoM in the last ODI in Mohali ' against Zimbabwe, in early 2002.

Logically, he should take Gautam Gambhir’s place in the XV and (if the Nagpur side is retained on Friday) Yalaka Venugopal Rao’s in the XI. But, then, every selection isn’t driven by logic and other factors come into play.

Also, Gambhir’s exclusion won’t be taken to very kindly by North’s Yashpal, who is otherwise perceived as being pro-Sourav. That’s another ‘complication’. Like it or not, the selectors’ outlook remains narrow, which is why Karnataka wants the zonal system done away with.

Frankly, India’s most successful Test captain and the fourth most prolific scorer in ODIs has to keep fingers crossed. Friday could be Sourav’s longest day.

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