| L. Balaji
Rajkot: Left-handed opener Sadagopan Ramesh has risen like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes but, till late on Friday, the uncapped Akash Chopra was still favoured to make the Team India XIV for the first Test against New Zealand, in Ahmedabad from October 8.
The national selectors, with Syed Kirmani in the chair for the first time, will meet here on Saturday afternoon. Three of the remaining four selectors — Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale — are in town, while Kirti Azad is expected to make it in the nick of time.
Incidentally, captain Sourav Ganguly may not be present. Coach John Wright, though, is very much around. Both are co-opted members of the selection committee.
Ramesh, who finally got a chance to press for a comeback, compiled a fine 110 (for India A) versus the visitors — in fact, just around 24 hours before Kirmani and the rest sit down — but Akash, too, got runs: 66. Moreover, the right-hander had an outstanding unbeaten 103 in Vizag last week.
“Had circumstances been different, Ramesh would have been back. However, it’s difficult ignoring a consistent newcomer. Then, Akash is definitely more suited by way of temperament to partner Virender Sehwag... Ramesh, after all, is going to go for his shots — quite like Sehwag,” a well-placed source told The Telegraph.
Also, if Akash is eventually going to be slotted for Australia (as is being talked about), it makes sense to blood him at home. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that Ramesh — out of favour for two years — will continue to be cold-shouldered. If not anything else, his innings has brought him in the Australia-frame.
At this point in time, all this can’t be very good news for somebody like Sanjay Bangar...
Actually, if the Board agrees to a possible suggestion from Kirmani that an additional player be accommodated, then Ramesh will take that XVth berth. Till late on Friday, though, there was no confirmation that the chief selector had formally spoken to the Board.
As already reported in these columns, limited overs’ veteran Yuvraj Singh is tipped to make the shortlist. Then, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Avishkar Salvi are also set to make a Test squad for the first time. Both quicks have featured in ODIs, only Balaji had a nightmarish debut in Vadodara (against the West Indies) 13 months ago. Since then, he has improved enormously.
The XIV, therefore, is expected to have three ‘new’ faces — Yuvraj, Salvi and Balaji — besides the rookie Akash.
Meanwhile, unless there’s a dramatic change in equations, Parthiv Patel will again wear the big gloves.
Virender Sehwag, Akash Chopra, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Avishkar Salvi, Yuvraj Singh, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Sanjay Bangar/Ajit Agarkar/Sairaj Bahutule.