The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘War’ over wicketkeeping berths on the cards
- TEST SERIES DOWN UNDER l Captain Sourav for five quicks in squad of XVI

Bangalore: Unless a ‘compromise’ is reached before the national selectors meet to pick the XVI-strong Test squad for Australia, on Thursday morning, the deliberations may see an all-out ‘war’ over the two berths for wicketkeepers.

Team India will feature in four Tests Down Under, with the first (Brisbane) beginning on December 4. The last (disastrous) tour was back in 1999-2000.

“There should be little disagreement over XIV positions but, then, things could get out of hand over the two ’keepers... I suppose naming even the World Cup XV was easier,” a well-placed source told The Telegraph.

Eventually, Parthiv Patel and Deep Dasgupta — whose last India appearance was 21 months ago — may get the nod, but Ajay Ratra and rookie Thilak Naidu have backers in North’s Kirti Azad and chairman Syed Kirmani (South), respectively.

Apparently (and with good reason), captain Sourav Ganguly has been pitching for Deep, who is also being viewed as the third opener after Virender Sehwag and Akash Chopra. However, the groundwork for his recall has to be done by East’s Pranab Roy. Clearly, he must have the support of Kiran More (West) and Central’s Sanjay Jagdale.

For Pranab, it’s going to be a night without sleep. But, then, that’s the price he has to pay for backing players who don’t exactly make his job simple. As one of Pranab’s colleagues put it: “It’s going to be a tough morning for all of us but, more so, for him...”

One understands coach John Wright’s views could either improve or hurt Deep’s chances. Like the captain, Wright is a co-opted member of the selection committee. Only, if both Sourav and the coach jointly ask for a player, Kirmani & Co. will have to fall in line. In fact, they should, as the accountability-axe hangs over the coach and captain.

As of late Wednesday, the squad looked set to comprise seven batsmen (including Yuvraj Singh), two wicketkeepers, two spinners and five quicks (including Lakshmipathy Balaji). It wasn’t confirmed, but Sourav has let it be known he is keen on five new ball bowlers. One can’t argue with that.

Assuming that Balaji does make it, the forthcoming tour will be his first-ever with Team India. Ditto for Chopra, who did well in both Tests versus New Zealand.

Of course, there’s bound to be a discussion over some of the other berths and in contention are opener Sadagopan Ramesh, middle-order bat Hemang Badani and quick Irfan Pathan, who was outstanding in the recent U-19 Asia Cup. By the morrow, though, others may join this list.

It’s not clear, however, how a Ramesh can be accommodated if the XVI is going to have two wicketkeepers... Is there a dark horse' Yes — Murali Kartik.

Meanwhile, the selectors will also be picking the India A squad for the forthcoming home series against Sri Lanka A. For obvious reasons, though, all the attention will be on the big boys’ shortlisting.

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