Bangalore: Unimpressed by three successive defeats in the current tri-series, the national selectors put on hold the Team India 16 for the four Tests in Australia. Instead, Syed Kirmani and Co. have named 20, with four to be eliminated on Saturday, after India’s last league game (in effect, the semi-final) in Hyderabad.
In any case, this hastily-reached arrangement suits captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright, who favoured the selection after the crunch match (versus New Zealand). Their reasons, though, were different. Now, more than anybody else, veteran Anil Kumble is under much pressure as Murali Kartik has been included as well.
Given that just two spinners — one of whom will be Harbhajan Singh — are slated to make the trip, Kartik has emerged a strong contender after troubling the Ricky Pontings in Wednesday’s game here. Of course, one-day cricket is far removed from the longer version, but the left-armer keeps putting his best foot forward — limited opportunities notwithstanding.
Incidentally, that Kartik had emerged the dark horse was reported in Thursday’s Late City edition of The Telegraph.
One understands Zimbabwean Raymond Price’s recent success in Australia played a hand in Kartik’s selection. However, dropping India’s most successful spinner isn’t going to be an easy task.
Saturday’s meeting could well be tumultuous.
From Bengal’s point of view, Deep Dasgupta is ‘back’ 21 months after his last India appearance. As two wicketkeepers will be on the flight to Australia, and Parthiv Patel is the only other gloveman in the 20, Deep’s presence in the squad is guaranteed.
Parthiv, though, will go as the No.1 ’keeper.
That North’s Kirti Azad didn’t attend the over three-hour selection committee meeting at the KSCA HQ, at the Chinnaswamy, helped Deep’s cause which was strongly advocated by the captain himself and East’s Pranab Roy.
The possibility of recalling Ajay Ratra was discussed but, with Wright backing Sourav, the issue was settled in Deep’s favour.
Also set to make a comeback is opener Sadagopan Ramesh. ‘Officially’, the left-hander is in a three-way race with middle order batsmen Yuvraj Singh and Hemang Badani, but well-placed sources are convinced he will eventually make the 16. Ramesh has been in the dumps after the 2001-2002 tour of Sri Lanka.
The squad will have two other openers in Virender Sehwag, who prefers batting in the middle, and Akash Chopra.
Actually, 14 of the 16 berths are confirmed — unless there’s a drastic rethink over the next day-and-half — with just the second spinner’s and the slot headed Ramesh’s way left to be finalised.
Assuming that Ramesh makes it and Kumble doesn’t, there will only be six other survivors from the 1999-2000 line-up: Sourav (then the vice-captain), Rahul Dravid (present vice-captain), Sachin Tendulkar (the then captain), V.V.S. Laxman, Ajit Agarkar and Harbhajan.
Meanwhile, exactly a year after speculation began on the appointment of a bowling coach, that bit has again started doing the rounds. However, the Board president Jagmohan Dalmiya clarified that “nothing” had been discussed in any forum.
He knows best.
LIKELY 16 (as of Thursday night)
Batsmen: Virender Sehwag, Akash Chopra, Sadagopan Ramesh, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman.
Wicketkeepers: Parthiv Patel, Deep Dasgupta.
Spinners: Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik/Anil Kumble.
New ball bowlers: Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Ajit Agarkar, Avishkar Salvi, Lakshmipathy Balaji.
Named in 20, but not strongly placed: Yuvraj Singh, Hemang Badani.
Named in 20, but out of contention: Irfan Pathan.