| Sourav’s deputy for the Dhaka tri-series will be Sehwag. The opener may even lead if the skipper’s back acts up
Mumbai: But for Abhijit Kale’s call-up, the national selectors have rewarded talented youngsters with a first-time senior India summons. Indeed, included in the XV for the April 11-20 tri-series in Dhaka are Delhi opener Gautam Gambhir and Mumbai quick Avishkar Salvi.
That the right-handed Salvi and southpaw Gambhir stood an excellent chance was reported in The Telegraph’s Wednesday edition. However, Hyderabad’s Ambati Tirupati Rayudu has again lost out — this time to Maharashtra’s Kale, who has been around for years. A right-handed middle-order bat, Kale will be 30 on July 3.
Not surprisingly, the Kale-move was initiated by West’s wily Kiran More and, soon enough, two of his colleagues began supporting him. While that slot wasn’t put to vote, Rayudu ended up with minority support.
The squad, though, will have just one wicketkeeper (Parthiv Patel). The experienced Vikram Rathore’s name was “discussed,” as a well-placed source put it, but with the selectors — who met here Wednesday — deciding on one ’keeper, Parthiv had to be chosen.
The three fresh faces apart, untried leggie Amit Mishra and off-spinner Sarandeep Singh have been recalled. While the latter has been in and out for some time, Mishra was in the XIV throughout the home Test series versus the West Indies.
Incidentally, neither Sarandeep nor Mishra would have been considered had Murali Kartik been available. Similarly, Kale wouldn’t have been in the frame if veteran V.V.S.Laxman was fit. Both were injured during the recent India A tour of the West Indies.
In fact, if Laxman was available, he would have been Sourav Ganguly’s deputy. Instead, the vice-captaincy has gone to Virender Sehwag and, if Sourav can’t make it because of an old back problem, Sehwag will lead against South Africa and Bangladesh.
The ‘vacancy’ arose as regular vice-captain Rahul Dravid is one of five first XI players to have opted out on grounds of fitness/personal reasons. Missing, too, are Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble (caught in a legal wrangle), Jawagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra (set for surgery on his right ankle).
“It’s hardly the hottest line-up around but, given the circumstances, we couldn’t have done better,” remarked one of the selectors, indicating that picking the “best available XV” was infinitely more difficult than choosing the best XV.
Clearly, the absence of five regulars has provided the Gambhirs and Salvis an excellent opportunity to push the non-performing first XI players (like Dinesh Mongia). However, it’s to be seen to what extent the youngsters — even Kale — can actually make an impression.
Significantly, of the 10 retained from the World Cup campaign, three — Ajit Agarkar, Sanjay Bangar and Parthiv — played no role in South Africa-Zimbabwe. Bangar, by the way, is the sole allrounder in a squad with three specialist new-ball operators and as many spinners.
Postscript: Rayudu may still head for Dhaka if Sourav is advised a lay-off, giving his back enough recovery time before India’s next engagement — the mid-August Asia Cup in Colombo.
Batsmen: Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Gautam Gambhir, Abhijit Kale.
Bowlers: Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Avishkar Salvi; Harbhajan Singh, Sarandeep Singh, Amit Mishra.
Allrounder: Sanjay Bangar.
Wicketkeeper: Parthiv Patel.