| Dilip Vengsarkar
New Delhi: While there can be a debate over who calls the shots in the Team India dressing room, there should be none over who is going to be the boss at selection committee meetings.
Chairman Dilip Vengsarkar, of course. The former captain stamped his authority, Monday, at the first meeting (in Chandigarh) where his committee had to pick the national squad.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, it’s Vengsarkar who suggested to his colleagues (Venkatapathi Raju, Bhupinder Singh, Sanjay Jagdale and Ranjib Biswal) plus captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell that they look at selecting Wasim Jaffer — an acknowledged grafter — for the five ODIs in South Africa.
They went along after Vengsarkar explained why he wanted Jaffer: (a) solid technique; (b) the ability to play on the back foot; (c) ideal temperament to build an innings on wickets which will be very demanding.
It’s probably the boldest move by any selection committee in recent memory. After all, in over six years of international cricket, Jaffer hasn’t played a single ODI. Gautam Gambhir lost out as he tends to be flashy and, more important, wouldn’t have put vice-captain Virender Sehwag under ‘pressure’.
With a strong-on-technique specialist opener in the squad, Sehwag has to tighten his own game. Jaffer’s selection, therefore, goes beyond merely filling in one of the berths. He’s definitely not the first choice opener, but won’t be too far from Sehwag’s heels.
The selectors, one learns, aren’t “satisfied” with Sehwag’s “attitude.”
Despite initial reservations over “rushing” his comeback, the selectors recalled Anil Kumble. He hasn’t played ODIs for well over a year, but Vengsarkar described him as an “integral part of this team.” It’s no surprise that Ramesh Powar had to make way.
Besides Pawar, Rudra Pratap Singh has been dropped. Rudra Pratap couldn’t make the most of recent opportunities and his place has gone to Zaheer Khan, who was out of favour after the tour of Pakistan earlier this year.
It’s interesting that while the last committee, chaired by Kiran More, preferred Rudra Pratap to Sreesanth, the present one has shown faith in the latter. Sreesanth, who wasn’t in the Champions Trophy 14, got a call-up after Ajit Agarkar fractured his left thumb last Thursday.
Agarkar’s selection is provisional and he can’t board the November 13 flight out of Mumbai unless he clears the November 10 fitness test. “Thankfully, Agarkar has suffered a hairline fracture and, so, there’s a chance he may be fit,” informed Board secretary Niranjan Shah.
If Agarkar isn’t given the green signal, Vikram Rajvir Singh is going to be on that flight to Johannesburg.
As Yuvraj Singh is out (he will be assessed “afresh” by Dr Anant Joshi in a fortnight), Dinesh Karthik has got a berth, as the second wicketkeeper. It won’t surprise if he stays on for the three-Test series.
Vengsarkar, by the way, was candid: “There’s no exceptional talent around... There are players who perform at the first-class level, but they’re good at the level, not beyond... I didn’t, for example, see anybody outstanding in the Challenger...”
Expect the chairman to keep talking straight.
Footnote: The selectors, one learns, have asked Chappell to “review” the games played as part of the warm-up exercises. This is a fallout of Yuvraj’s injury, while playing kho-kho. As a source put it: “Let there be low-risk games... Why kho-kho on the eve of one of the most crucial matches'” A review won’t help Yuvraj, but...