| SHIV SUNDAR: In coach and captain’s good books
Bangalore, Oct. 4: Despite being ignored during the four Tests in England and also not getting a call for the Board President’s XI, it’s almost certain that Shiv Sundar Das will figure in the XIV for the first two of three Tests against the West Indies.
While Test No.1 is at the Wankhede from October 9, the Chepauk will host the second from October 17. The third, at the Eden, begins October 30. The squad for the last Test will, predictably, be picked later.
The selection for Mumbai and Chennai will, of course, be made by the ‘fresh’ committee — only Central’s Sanjay Jagdale is an old hand — at the KSCA Stadium itself, tomorrow. Jagdale’s colleagues are Brijesh Patel (chairman, South), Kirti Azad (North), Pranab Roy (East) and Kiran More (West).
It will be a first for the ‘newcomers’. Incidentally, captain Sourav Ganguly is expected in the morning. So, too, coach John Wright. Both are ex-officio members of the committee.
Shiv Sundar’s run of 23 successive Test appearances ended with Virender Sehwag being promoted to open with Wasim Jaffer at Lord’s. While that pair did duty at Trent Bridge, too, the last two Tests (Headingley, The Oval) saw Sanjay Bangar replace Jaffer.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, the Bangar-Sehwag combination remains the first choice, but Sourav and Wright’s high opinion of Shiv Sundar “should surely” give him a place in the XIV. Generally, specialist openers don’t find a berth among the reserves.
Actually, equations may dramatically change in Shiv Sundar’s favour if Bangar fails in the second innings here as well. Today, in the first, he managed two before becoming a Mervyn Dillion victim.
Shiv Sundar, it may be recalled, posted the highest first-class score — 250 versus Essex — on the tour of England. However, owing to the conditions, it’s Bangar who got the nod at Headingley (which followed that Essex match).
The diminutive opener fell from grace after managing a best of only 35 in his last ten Test innings.
In the lead-up to the selection, the top curiosity (besides who will open) has been over who will wear the big gloves. Unless there’s a dramatic rethink, teenaged Parthiv Patel will return behind the wickets. That he was preferred over Ajay Ratra, in the Board President’s XI, is a strong pointer.
In England, Ratra and Parthiv did duty in two Tests each, but the powers-that-be see more “potential” in the teenager — the youngest-ever Test wicketkeeper anywhere. Parthiv, though, can’t take anything for granted. Clearly, had Deep Dasgupta’s ’keeping been adequate, he would probably have made a comeback.
While the middle-order batsmen (Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav and V.V.S. Laxman) pick themselves, the only real discussion could centre around the bowling combination. One understands Sourav may call — telephonically, if he can’t make it to the meeting — for the selection of just two specialist spinners (Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh), which means the XIV will have four new-ball operators.
With the captain repeatedly insisting Jawagal Srinath “will play,” his selection has to be taken for granted. Still, Srinath (expected back from the UK tomorrow) should publicly ‘withdraw’ his Test-retirement. “Look, he is available,” is how chief selector Patel put it this afternoon.
[Srinath returned to the UK, after responding to an absurd SOS from the team management in Colombo, as he had to formally “check-out” of Leicester, after a highly successful stint with Leicestershire at the fag end of the season.]
Srinath apart, the new-ball operators (assuming their strength is four) should be Zaheer Khan — bowling at his best right now, Ashish Nehra (who is “fit”) and Ajit Agarkar. A couple of the “promising” quicks could figure in the deliberations, but it’s unlikely one of them will push Agarkar out.
If at all, it’s left-arm spinner Murali Kartik who may leave Agarkar without a berth in the XIV. Some of the selectors, after all, are inclined to choose three specialist spinners. Another name doing the rounds is that of Amit Mishra, the 19-year-old leggie.
Meanwhile, there is some “concern” over the Wankhede wicket having been relaid. Indeed, quite a few feel the first Test ought “never” to have been scheduled on a virgin track. Why this wasn’t thought of earlier is a mystery.
EXPECTED INDIAN XIV
Virender Sehwag, Sanjay Bangar, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Shiv Sundar Das, Ashish Nehra and Ajit Agarkar/Murali Kartik. Dark horse: Mohammed Kaif.