| Irfan Pathan in Vadodara on Tuesday. (AFP)
Vadodara: The Indian XI expected to take the field on Wednesday, in the fourth and final Pepsi Cup ODI against the West Indies, may well be the one which launches our World Cup campaign — versus Bangladesh on March 17.
Captain Rahul Dravid announced the XII on Tuesday afternoon and while Dinesh Karthik has been included, The Telegraph’s sources strongly indicated he would remain in the dressing room.
The XI, then, should be (in batting order): Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan.
Gautam Gambhir, Ramesh Powar, Suresh Raina and Sreesanth didn’t make the XII.
“The mood definitely is to play five specialist bowlers and, in that case, Karthik has to sit out,” one of the sources explained. The advantage, of course, is with Team India — 2-1.
While Sourav returns after being rested in Chennai, he’s going to have a new partner in Uthappa. The latter cracked a furiously paced 70 in the last ODI and the manner he got the runs (on his comeback, mind you) has made him a firm favourite for the World Cup 15.
Gambhir, at the moment, has fallen behind.
Obviously, much of the attention will be on local star Irfan. It’s a comeback for him and there can be no better place to do so than at home. With Joginder Sharma given the boot without a fair run, it’s expected that Pathan is going to head for the West Indies.
Unless he just can’t get his act right in the opportunities before the 30 World Cup probables get halved in less than a fortnight from now.
Dravid, incidentally, gave a twist to the speculation doing the rounds by saying Powar could actually “compete” with a seamer for a berth in the 15. Thus far, the impression had been only two specialist spinners — Kumble and Harbhajan — will make it.
He said: “I haven’t ruled out Ramesh... He has done a very good job for us in the opportunities he has got, but you must understand he is competing with two of the greatest spinners in Indian cricket... Ramesh is probably going to compete with a seamer...”
That many have been impressed with Powar’s ability to take wickets in the middle overs is probably significant.
While the Indians have four ODIs against Sri Lanka not many days from now, the face-off here will be the West Indies’ last before the World Cup. They have major fitness concerns, though — Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo.
Captain Brian Lara, however, has asked both to make themselves available even if they’re “75 per cent” fit. Samuels, MoM in Chennai, has hurt his left index finger; Bravo has a problem with his left shoulder.
“We’re unpredictable, but don’t want to leave 1-3 losers... There’s a long break ahead for the guys who aren’t 100 per cent fit today,” is what Lara (who may not again play in India) told the Media.
Coach Bennett King, by the way, didn’t attend Tuesday’s nets as he’d become a ‘Vadodara-belly’ victim.