| Andrew Flintoff and Duncan Fletcher in Indore on Friday
Indore: The team management may describe it differently, but Mohammed Kaif has finally been dropped. He isn’t in the XIII shortlisted for Saturday’s seventh (and final) ODI against England, to be played at the MPCA Stadium.
This year, Kaif’s scores in ODIs have been a pathetic 8, 5 not out, 0, 0, 4, 0, 0, 5 and 15.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, vice-captain Virender Sehwag is also out of contention. After failing yet again (in Jamshedpur, on Wednesday), he’d himself said he would prefer a “break.” The XIII was announced during Friday evening’s team meeting.
The TVS Cup, of course, has already been won by India. At best, the visitors can make it 2-4. Last Sunday’s ODI in Guwahati had been abandoned without a ball being bowled.
With both Sehwag and Kaif out, it’s almost certain (to the extent possible under the current dispensation) that opener Robin Uthappa will make his debut after a Bharat darshan of sorts for the past week.
While Uthappa should fill one vacancy, the other is to be taken care of by captain Rahul Dravid, who was allowed to skip Guwahati and Jamshedpur. His ‘comeback’, incidentally, is in the Holkar stronghold where he was born 33 years ago.
The past couple of days have been rather emotional for Dravid ' from meeting his maternal grandmother to being felicitated by the Marathi community and more ' but trust him to blank out everything except the job at hand.
While nobody doubts Dravid’s ability to switch-on immediately, it’s to be seen whether his teammates show the same professionalism. To say the least, the Indians played and thought poorly in Jamshedpur. That allowed England, even minus Andrew Flintoff, to pull one back.
Flintoff is returning and, one learns, the very unimpressive Matthew Hoggard is going to be dropped. If regular ’keeper Geraint Jones recovers from the injury in Kochi, then Vikram Solanki will probably be left out.
Getting back to the Indians, there may well be a couple of changes in the bowling line-up as well. Irfan Pathan is expected to be back, as is Sreesanth ' it’s a mystery why he was rested in Jamshedpur.
It’s not confirmed, but Dravid and coach Greg Chappell could give Harbhajan Singh a break and drop Vikram Rajvir Singh.
According to the captain, the offie didn’t bowl at nets on match-eve owing to a “niggle.” Late in the evening, however, Harbhajan confirmed (via an SMS) that he was “200 per cent” fit. Therefore, he’s available for selection.
The concluding ODI, by the way, is going to be the first at the MPCA Stadium. “The wicket looks good and, as the boundaries are small, there could be plenty of runs,” remarked Dravid. The bigger test, it appears, will be battling the heat.
Given that Indore hasn’t hosted a one-dayer for five years, a full house is expected. There’s disappointment, though, that the selectors rested Mahendra Singh Dhoni. In India, today, there’s no bigger draw than the dasher from Ranchi.
Replacement Dinesh Karthik, obviously, is going to be bent on making a point or two ' one certainly directed at the security personnel, who mistook him for an “imposter” on Thursday. It’s a limited comeback, after seven months, and it hasn’t begun well.
INDIA (from): Rahul Dravid, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yalaka Venugopal Rao, Dinesh Karthik, Ramesh Powar, Sreesanth, Rudra Pratap Singh, Munaf Patel, Harbhahjan Singh, Vikram Rajvir Singh.
ENGLAND (likely): Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Vikram Solanki/Geraint Jones, Ian Blackwell, Liam Plunkett, James Anderson, Sajid Mahmood.
Umpires: Rudi Koertzen, A.V. Jayaprakash. TV: I. Shivram.
Match starts: 9 am
Change of guard
Saturday will be Troy Cooley’s last day as England’s bowling coach. An Australian, he’s returning home to work with Cricket Australia. His successor, former Somerset coach Kevin Shine, has been “settling down” for the past few weeks. Interacting with the Media, he observed: “The challenge is to improve all the bowlers, not anybody in particular...”