| Sourav at the Eden on Friday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Jan. 12: Five weeks after welcoming Sourav Ganguly back with a handshake, in Potchefstroom (ahead of the Test series in South Africa), Greg Chappell proposed that the former Team India captain be recalled as an opener in the ODIs.
Senior national selectors Dilip Vengsarkar, Venkatapathi Raju, Bhupinder Singh, Sanjay Jagdale and Ranjib Biswal were thinking on the same lines as the coach and, so, Sourav has returned after 16 months.
His Test “exile” ended last month.
The unhappy Zimbabwe chapter in their relationship won’t be forgotten, but Chappell has been doing much to establish he actually didn’t have anything “personal” against Sourav.
As reported in the lead-up to today’s selection meeting in Rajkot, Sourav’s comeback will be versus the West Indies in Nagpur (January 21).
For now, the selectors have picked 15 only for the first two ODIs. The second is in Cuttack, on January 24. The ones in Chennai and Vadodara are later.
Incidentally, Sourav’s ODI debut had also been against the West Indies — in Brisbane, 15 years ago. He didn’t get another match for the next four-and-a-half years, though. That won’t be repeated.
Speaking at the Eden on a day he completed another Ranji century (122 off 118 balls at Rajasthan’s expense), Sourav said: “I expected this call… I knew the opportunity would come my way one day….”
One-day cricket is seen as a young cricketer’s game, yet somebody who turns 35 in July has made a return. It’s one comeback which is going to be recounted many times over.
Not just in and around Behala.
According to sources, Chappell took the line that a “left-right combination” would serve India well. The right-hander of his (and the nation’s) choice is Sachin Tendulkar.
As a pair, Sachin and Sourav have as many as 16 century partnerships.
If Sourav’s has been a remarkable return, no less significant is Sachin’s appointment as vice-captain for India’s first two ODIs of the year.
The former captain’s brief is to “guide” Rahul Dravid.
One understands he will be retained as Dravid’s deputy till the end of the World Cup. What happens thereafter is going to be interesting.
Besides selecting 15 for Nagpur and Cuttack, Vengsarkar and Co. chose the 30 World Cup probables.
Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan, two big omissions from the 15, are there. While Sehwag should be recalled sooner rather than later, it’s tough going for Pathan.
What can work in his favour is that Baroda have made the Ranji semi-finals. Therefore, there’s at least one more opportunity to make an impact with the ball.
If Pathan doesn’t, then comeback man Joginder Sharma may board the flight to the West Indies. When the season began, it was assumed a seat had been reserved for Pathan.
While the squad for the first two ODIs has six making a comeback — Sourav, Gautam Gambhir, Ramesh Powar, Joginder, Rudra Pratap Singh and Robin Uthappa — there are three absolute newcomers among the World Cup probables.
Delhi medium-pacer Ishant Sharma, Saurashtra batsman Cheteshwar Pujara and Baroda’s left-arm spinner Rajesh Pawar are the only ones who didn’t figure in the probables’ list for the last Champions Trophy.
Harbhajan Singh was to have been dropped for a “few matches”, but survived as Anil Kumble was rested.