London: Having gambled somewhat by including Marcus Trescothick and Ronnie Irani in the squad for the decider against India, beginning Thursday, England are likely to go the full distance and include both in the XI at The Oval.
While Trescothick has just come off a fractured left thumb-induced lay-off, Irani recently underwent arthroscopy on his right knee. Both had a pretty extensive workout Tuesday and, according to well-placed sources, their non-inclusion will be a surprise.
Robert Key, then, looks set to lose his place. After all, once in the XI, Trescothick will return to one of the opening slots — the other, of course, is held by Michael Vaughan. As for Irani, he will fill the berth vacated by Andrew Flintoff.
The Indians, too, had a lengthy session at The Oval itself. And, while there remains much curiosity over how the wicket will behave, captain Sourav Ganguly’s opinion was straightforward: “Looks a good track and, unlike Monday, there’s much less moisture...”
As The Oval is Surrey’s home ground, no one knows conditions better than England’s most capped player — Alec Stewart. Speaking to The Telegraph, he said: “The wicket has played true throughout the season. However, it will turn... Only, I can’t say from which day.”
Whether the turn is prodigious or not, England have picked only one specialist spinner in Ashley Giles.
Meanwhile, as already reported in these columns, the Indian XI will see one change in the side which won so handsomely at Headingley — Ajay Ratra will replace the teenaged Parthiv Patel.
Ratra, it may be recalled, began the series as the No.1 wicketkeeper but a toe injury on the eve of the second Test (Trent Bridge) saw the big gloves go Patel’s way. Now, Ratra will be back behind the wickets.
Presentations for Sachin
The decider, by the way, is Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th Test and two presentations have been lined up.
Sourav will make one on behalf of the team, some 45 minutes before the match gets underway, while Cricket Club of India president Raj Singh Dungarpur (who was chief selector when Sachin was first picked, in 1989) will make one on behalf of the Mumbai-located institution.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India, one understands, will make its presentation during the Test against the West Indies, in Mumbai, next month.