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Since 1st March, 1999
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Chopra, Bahutule make the cut; Bangar left out
- I’d been waiting for years... Honestly, this is the best day of my life: Yuvraj Singh

Rajkot, Oct.4: The flamboyant Yuvraj Singh, recognised as a one-day specialist for the past three years, has been named in the Team India XIV for the first Test against New Zealand, in Ahmedabad from Wednesday.

Understandably, he is on cloud nine. “I’d been waiting for years... Honestly, this is the best day of my life,” Yuvraj told The Telegraph, when contacted on his cellphone. By the way, that he was set to be picked (after 73 ODI appearances), was reported in these columns yesterday.

Yuvraj, in fact, is one of four uncapped players — others being quicks Lakshmipathy Balaji and Avishkar Salvi (both of whom have also featured in ODIs) and rookie opener Akash Chopra. As of now, though, only Akash and one of the quicks will actually be earning their first Test cap in a few days.

Really, Akash’s inclusion has confirmed Team India will have yet another opening combination. He will partner state-mate Virender Sehwag, who himself prefers to bat in the middle-order.

Significantly, the selectors (debutant-chairman Syed Kirmani, Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale) looked well beyond the Ahmedabad Test in making the selection. For example, Akash and Yuvraj have been picked largely because the quintet visualises a role for them in Australia, later in the year. If they can’t come good at home, then...

Only, while Akash is going to be blooded straightaway, Yuvraj will have to wait. Still, a clear signal has been sent by naming him in the XIV. Team India’s commitments Down Under include four Tests.

It’s because of the Australia-factor that the selectors deliberated for around 90 minutes. Captain Sourav Ganguly, who couldn’t make it owing to engagements in Calcutta, conveyed his views during a tele-conference. Apparently, the quintet held a different opinion about just one player — Sanjay Bangar. Otherwise, the thoughts of Sourav and the Kirmanis were in perfect harmony.

The uncapped players apart, leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule is back after over two years — his last Test was at the Sinhalese Sports Club (Colombo) in August 2001. The selectors see him as a “fighter” with a “better attitude” than left-arm spinner Murali Kartik. That the latter has a problem of overstepping made it easier for Bahutule, who has survived a car crash which killed Vivek Singh, son of ghazal maestro Jagjit and Chitra.

Kartik’s name, however, was discussed. Ditto for opener Sadagopan Ramesh, Bangar and Ajit Agarkar. Of the last named trio, Ramesh has the best chance of making it to Australia — provided he builds on the handsome 110 scored for India A here.

While both Balaji and Salvi have been picked, it has been left to Sourav to determine who will partner Zaheer Khan. It could become a different ball game if the Ahmedabad wicket promises to quickly turn into a dust bowl. Then, it’s possible even Bahutule will make the XI (besides Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh), with Sourav partnering Zaheer.

One understands Kirmani sought the Board’s permission to choose an additional player, but was informed that the number couldn’t exceed XIV.

Incidentally, Wednesday will mark the start of Team India’s first Test in 2003.

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