| Shiv Sundar Das
Calcutta: Team India coach John Wright will be “happy” if opener Shiv Sundar Das, who hasn’t played Test cricket for a year, is picked for the A tour of England.
The national selectors, with Brijesh Patel in the chair, are meeting here Saturday afternoon to select 14/15 for the June 22-August 3 trip.
India A, though, won’t be playing versus England A: Nine of the 11 matches are going to be against some of the leading Counties, with one game versus the Graeme Smith-led South Africans. India, it may be recalled, had a match against West Indies A during last year’s tour.
“The opening combination remains a critical area and, knowing that we will be playing four Tests in Australia, not many months from now, I’m confident the selectors will pay special attention to the No.1 and 2 positions,” Wright, vacationing in Wellington with his children (Harry and Georgie), told The Telegraph Friday evening.
[Incidentally, there’s an outside chance of Wright accompanying the squad as coach. No Team India commitments are in the way, but Wright — who will be at the National Cricket Academy late next week — probably requires a few weeks off in July. Ashok Malhotra had the job in the West Indies, earlier this year, but won’t be handed another assignment.
If Wright isn’t available, then the Mohinder Amarnaths, Lalchand Rajputs and Yashpal Sharmas will be pretty much in the ‘picture’. Even Sandeep Patil can’t be ruled out.]
Wright added: “Gautam Gambhir did reasonably well in Dhaka and Akash Chopra has been a heavy scorer (for India A and Delhi), but I’ll be happy if the selectors think of Shiv Sundar. I’ve always had a high opinion and, really, he just had one bad series — in the West Indies, last year.”
According to Wright, “top-level exposure” in England is bound to do Shiv Sundar a world of good. In any case, an upswing in the Bhubaneshwar-based right-hander’s confidence will help Team India as well.
Indeed, a fine run should help Shiv Sundar keep his place in the Test XIV during the home series versus New Zealand, at the start of Season 2003-2004. That could well be step No.1 towards regaining a first XI berth.
“I think we must ask ourselves whether we should continue with Virender Sehwag and Sanjay Bangar (as openers) in Australia, where wickets are bouncy…” Wright continued, clearly indicating he would prefer a different combination there.
He also felt the selectors shouldn’t be harsh on Sadagopan Ramesh, the left-handed opener whose last India appearance was 21 months ago.
Sehwag and Bangar have, of course, been launching the innings since August (seven Tests, from Headingley). As for the 25-year-old Shiv Sundar, he opened in 23 Tests on-the-trot, but a top score of only 35 in eight innings in the West Indies saw Sehwag take his slot in England.
Incidentally, Shiv Sundar is already in England, playing league cricket. If Patel and his colleagues (Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale) oblige, Shiv Sundar may even be the India A captain. Another ‘contender’ is Ajit Agarkar. Perhaps, Hemang Badani as well.
In Wright’s opinion, “unearthing fast bowlers” is another critical area. “Avishkar Salvi was impressive in Dhaka, but we need more of his kind. The most promising quicks, therefore, should be chosen. With a big question mark over Sri (Jawagal Srinath), we do need a couple of quality fast bowlers in the reserves.”
Wright, by the way, believes young Parthiv Patel should be sent with the A squad. “Exposure overseas can only be beneficial… Moreover, he will have opportunities to improve his batting.”
Apparently, this has been conveyed to the chief selector by Wright himself, during a recent tele-conference.
While the Gambhirs and Salvis are sure to make the trip, very well placed are the Sairaj Bahutules. Bengal hardly made any impression in last season’s Ranji Trophy, but Ranadeb Bose and Sourashish Lahiri are in contention. Rohan Gavaskar and Deep Dasgupta too.
Of the quartet, Rohan has the best chance.
INDIA A IN ENGLAND
June 22: Arrival in London; June 25: Vs British Universities (Durham University); June 27-30: Vs Durham (Riverside); July 2-4: Vs Nottinghamshire (Trent Bridge); July 6: Vs Leicestershire (Grace Road); July 9-11: Vs Yorkshire (Headingley); July 13: Vs Lancashire (Blackpool); July 15-17: Vs Surrey (The Oval); July 19-21: Vs South Africa (Arundel ); July 24-26: Vs Glamorgan (Swansea); July 28: Vs Gloucestershire (Cheltenham); July 30-August 2: Vs Warwickshire (Edgbaston). August 3: Departure from London.