The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav to make trip in ‘larger interest’
- Malhotra to accompany squad in Dhaka

Calcutta: Despite being far from fit, Sourav Ganguly will be heading for Dhaka in the “larger interest” of Indian cricket. The captain, it may be recalled, has been having a back problem specially since a mishap at the Chepauk last October.

Neither Sourav nor Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Jagmohan Dalmiya was available for comment, but well-placed sources of The Telegraph confirmed the captain has been “advised” to not do a Sachin Tendulkar or a Rahul Dravid by opting out of the April 11-20 tri-series.

Of course, Dravid and Sachin aren’t the only top guns giving Dhaka a skip — others being Anil Kumble, Jawagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra. Of this quintet, Sachin and Nehra will be undergoing surgery.

According to well-placed sources, Sunday’s “advisory” probably centred around two issues: That the 15-member squad is terribly short on experience (with four uncapped players) and the image of Indian cricket would take a beating if the captain, too, cannot make the trip.

While that can’t be dismissed offhand, it’s incomprehensible why Sourav has to be treated so differently. In fact, if anything, the captain needs a rest before anybody else. It’s not insignificant that Sourav’s last break of over a month was back in early 2001 — after the home series versus Australia and before a visit to Zimbabwe.

Obviously, the Bangladesh Cricket Board must have worked overtime to ensure the Indian captain’s presence, not to speak of the ‘interest’ that would have been shown by sponsors/marketing agents. After all, irrespective of what the Bishan Singh Bedis may feel, Sourav sells.

However, it will hardly be prudent to risk the captain in matches of little consequence.

Meanwhile, the BCCI will be sending the city-based India A coach Ashok Malhotra with the Sourav-led squad. For now, Malhotra has been designated coach, but will function as assistant coach if John Wright, who lost his father a few days ago, can still make it from New Zealand.

Wright, one understands, could reach Dhaka before the second game (April 13, against South Africa). India’s opening match is versus Bangladesh, on April 11.

“I’m happy, yes, but things should be absolutely clear by Monday evening,” Malhotra, a national selector till last September, remarked late in the day. Incidentally, nobody has ever served as assistant coach. Either way, then, Malhotra is a winner.

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