Bangalore, Oct. 5: The national selectors, with Brijesh Patel in the chair, have picked the finest possible XIV for the first two Tests — Mumbai and Chennai — against the West Indies.
This afternoon’s selection, in fact, has been on expected lines except that the third spinner’s slot has gone to rookie Haryana leggie Amit Mishra and not the experienced Murali Kartik. However, that the 19-year-old was in contention was reported by The Telegraph today.
Of course, by picking Mishra, the selectors — Patel’s colleagues being Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale — have also done the proverbial balancing-act. In other words, Ajay Ratra’s omission has been ‘balanced’ by state-mate Mishra’s maiden call-up.
[Kirti, who hasn’t really been in the pink of health after undergoing surgery three weeks ago, did well to attend the present committee’s first big-time meeting. “Didn’t want to miss it,” he quipped.]
Mishra, it may be recalled, made headlines by taking six for 94 (turning out for Board President’s XI) against Zimbabwe, in Vijayawada, earlier this year. Incidentally, the selection of a second specialist leg-spinner is intended to be a message of sorts for Anil Kumble. Indeed, he must consistently get his act right.
Captain Sourav Ganguly, who didn’t turn up for the meeting, (telephonically) asked for just two spinners (Kumble and Harbhajan Singh), but Patel and Co. felt it would be appropriate to give Sourav and coach John Wright the option of a third spinner, instead of picking four specialist new-ball operators.
Apparently, Sourav wanted Ajit Agarkar as the fourth seamer after Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. While Nehra is in the squad, he will undergo a fitness test Monday afternoon. Should the left-armer be less than hundred per cent there, his place will be taken by Agarkar, the unannounced standby.
Today’s meeting was held in two phases (informally and, then, formally) and, as this was Wright’s maiden interaction with four of the five selectors (only Jagdale was in the earlier quintet), he used the opportunity to “generally speak,” as a source put it, about his views on the build-up to the February-March World Cup.
That alone took up about an hour. The selection proper began around 3.00 pm, with the arrival of the convenor, Board secretary S.K. Nair. Wright, who came late this morning, went back to Mumbai early in the evening.
To talk of the XIV, Shiv Sundar Das has made it as third opener (after Virender Sehwag and Sanjay Bangar), while teenaged Parthiv Patel will do duty behind the stumps. He has already earned two Test caps.
Though there were confusing reports in a section of the Media over Srinath, the veteran (currently in the UK) sent a fax both to the Board and chief selector Patel confirming his availability. Though he hasn’t publicly withdrawn the Test-retirement bit, the faxes spoke of just that.
In any case, Sourav and Patel himself were very keen to have Srinath back. Srinath had announced retirement after the Test series in the West Indies, where he went wicketless in two of the five Tests. That he was likely to take back his retirement became a distinct possibility once Patel took over as chief selector, last month.
THE INDIAN XIV
Openers: Virender Sehwag, Sanjay Bangar, Shiv Sundar Das; Middle-order batsmen: Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman; Wicketkeeper: Parthiv Patel; Spinners: Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra; Speedsters: Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra. Standby (for Nehra): Ajit Agarkar.