The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Race hots up for the 16th slot

Calcutta: While both the 16 for the seven ODIs in New Zealand and the 30 World Cup probables will be picked here Wednesday, much of the attention should effectively be on the smaller selection: Fifteen of those 16 will stand the best chance of eventually making it to the World Cup.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, the thinktank (currently in New Zealand) will not be making recommendations for the probables. However, captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright, specially, will have something specific to say about the 16-strong squad for the ODIs beginning December 26.

Indeed, it won’t surprise if they ask for four changes in the Test-16. Their wish list is bound to include veterans Anil Kumble and Jawagal Srinath, as also rising star Yuvraj Singh. Then, the call could go out to rookie Ambati Tirupati Rayudu or Reetinder Singh Sodhi or…

Unless intimated by late Tuesday, the thinktank’s preference will be made known to Board president Jagmohan Dalmiya or chief selector Brijesh Patel shortly before the latter and his colleagues (Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale) begin deliberations at the Dr B.C. Roy Club House.

As Murali Kartik only made it to the Test squad because of Kumble’s non-availability, the latter’s availability for the ODIs means the Railways’ top gun has to return. Having three spinners (the third, in this context, being certainty Harbhajan Singh) will be patently absurd.

Kartik apart, Shiv Sundar Das, second wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra and (going by indications) Ashish Nehra will be returning home after the second and final Test, in Hamilton, beginning Thursday.

There’s going to be no debate over Shiv Sundar and Ratra. In fact, there shouldn’t be one over Nehra as well. After all, unless an injury keeps Ajit Agarkar out of the Hamilton XI, Nehra will be among the reserves with his Wellington-place going to Tinu Yohannan. So much for present form.

Moreover, Nehra was a huge flop during the last set of ODIs — at home, versus the West Indies. In 34 overs, over four matches, the left-armer went for as many as 226 and collected just three wickets.

There may, of course, be much discussion over ‘accommodating’ Dinesh Mongia and the uncapped Irfan Pathan. Also, perhaps, over ‘persisting’ with V.V.S. Laxman.


Certainties (as of Tuesday night): Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S. Laxman, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Sanjay Bangar, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan.

Near certainty: Tinu Yohannan.

16th slot: Ambati Tirupati Rayudu/Reetinder Singh Sodhi/Dinesh Mongia or…

Dark horse: Irfan Pathan.

World Cup probables

Meanwhile, the probables’ list is likely to include all 19 who either played or were in the squad during the recent ODIs against the West Indies. Plus, obviously, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan.

Additionally, the Rohan Gavaskars, Pathans and Gautam Gambhirs are well-placed to make the cut. It’s to be seen, though, whether Deep Dasgupta and the promising Ranadeb Bose will figure in Wednesday afternoon’s announcement.

Incidentally, as the meeting is on his home turf, there will be considerable ‘pressure’ on first-term selector Pranab.

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