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Selectors may play safe on VVS

- Big decision could be put off; focus on Yuvraj’s fitness
VVS Laxman, Manoj Tiwary & Yuvraj Singh

Calcutta: Till late on Thursday, there was no unanimity among the national selectors on the way forward with V.V.S. Laxman and, so, they may eventually play it ‘safe’ and retain the veteran of 134 Tests.

That the Test squad to be picked by Krishnamachari Srikkanth and his colleagues (Mohinder Amarnath, Narendra Hirwani, Surendra Bhave, Raja Venkat), on Friday, is going to be the last by the present committee is another factor which could work in Laxman’s favour.

Also, the hugely reliable Rahul Dravid won’t be there. So, in any case, there has to be a far less experienced/new face at No.3. Should there be one at No.5 as well?

India A captain Cheteshwar Pujara looks certain to take the slot thrown open by Dravid’s sudden retirement, in March.

“The selectors may want to leave the Laxman issue to the next committee, even though everybody believes that it’s easier to try a newcomer in a series against New Zealand,” a well-placed source told The Telegraph.

New Zealand will be touring India for two Tests, in Laxman’s hometown Hyderabad (from August 23) and in Bangalore (from August 31).

India’s real test is going to be against England, in the four-match series, from November. It won’t make too much sense to blood somebody then.

Laxman was one of the big failures in the last series, in Australia, averaging sub-20. In the last Test engagement at home, however, he’d averaged just under 100. That was against the West Indies.

Assuming both Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan are fit, the 14-man squad could be as follows: Sachin Tendulkar, Laxman, Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Pujara, Virat Kohli, Manoj Tiwary/Ajinkya Rahane; captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni; Zaheer, Munaf Patel/Ashok Dinda, Umesh Yadav; Pragyan Ojha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Rahul Sharma.

Till late on Thursday, Srikkanth and Co., it’s understood, didn’t have an update on the two senior pros, both of whom didn’t stay back in Sri Lanka for the one-off T20 International.

Harbhajan Singh hasn’t worn the India cap for a year and, unless somebody pitches for him very strongly, he won’t be back in the dressing room.

Sounds a bit unusual, but the dark horse appears to be Suresh Raina.

Meanwhile, the squad for the World T20 may see one change from the lot which went to Sri Lanka, with Yuvraj Singh back, at the expense of Rohit Sharma.

“The selectors will be guided by the NCA’s report... Yuvi’s a match-winner, but he hasn’t played international cricket for nine months... The jury is somewhat out on whether his return should be rushed at a critical time in his life,” the well-placed source added.

Indications, of course, are that only a negative fitness report is going to delay Yuvraj’s return.

Footnote: There’s been talk in hush-hush tones over picking Wriddhiman Saha as the specialist ’keeper and getting Dhoni to play as a batsman, at No. 6, but nobody could confirm that such an arrangement was being seriously considered.