| Team India captain Sourav Ganguly welcomes coach John Wright to the CAB on Monday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Mumbai off-spinner Ramesh Powar has been selected in the 15-member Indian squad for the upcoming five-match ODI series in Pakistan starting March 13.
Powar had never been named in the national squad before. He pipped his Railways rival Kulamani Parida, whose name was also doing the rounds, to the spot for the second spinner. Murali Kartik was the other spinner picked.
The BCCI secretary S.K. Nair said after the three-and-a-half hour selection meeting at the CAB that the selection of Powar was never easy. “Parida’s name was discussed at length,” he said.
Delhi off-spinner Sarandeep Singh and Bengal’s Sourashish Lahiri were also discussed but one understands it is the batting credentials of the stocky Mumbaikar that finally clinched him a place in the squad.
Kartik’s below-par performance in Australia put a question mark over his selection, but the left-armer finally got the selectors’ nod ahead of Karnataka’s Sunil Joshi.
Other than the five selectors — Syed Kirmani, Pranab Roy, Sanjay Jagdale, Kiran More and Kirti Azad — captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright were present in the meeting.
One notable absence was Bengal captain Rohan Gavaskar. He had a reasonable tour of Australia, but Mohammed Kaif got the nod ahead of him.
Queried about the omission of the Gavaskar, Nair said: “I’ m not supposed to divulge the details of the meeting.” Kaif had missed the VB series in Australia with a thumb injury.
“Kaif last played during the A tri-series in Calcutta in December. His fitness, however, will be monitored during the conditioning camp to be held here from March 7-9,” Nair said.
Fitness problems are forcing India to go to Pakistan with a depleted attack. As reported in The Telegraph, both Ajit Agarkar and Anil Kumble were ruled out as they couldn’t recover from the injuries suffered in Australia.
“We want both of them fit for the Test series starting March 28,” the BCCI secretary added. The team for the Test series will be selected on March 22.
Left-arm pacer Ashish Nehra is the beneficiary in Agarkar’s absence. However, he has been asked to play the Duleep Trophy final against East Zone starting on Thursday at Mohali, where his fitness will be assessed.
“If he is not fit, we have a stand-bye ready,” Nair said. Though he didn’t specify, Amit Bhandari will make the trip if Nehra fails to make the cut. Zaheer Khan, who missed the ODIs in Australia with an injured hamstring, will also be watched closely by team physio Andrew Leipus and trainer Gregory Allen King during the camp.
Parthiv Patel was selected as the second wicket-keeper (Rahul Dravid will be the first-choice ’keeper) ahead of Mahender Singh Dhoni of Bihar.
Batsmen: Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Hemang Badani.
Wicketkeeper: Parthiv Patel.
Spinners: Murali Kartik, Ramesh Powar.
Seamers: Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra, Lakshmipathy Balaji.
PTI adds from Dharamsala: Powar said his allround ability helped him make it to the ODI squad for the Pakistan tour.
“My allround ability is my plus point. I have scored runs in crunch situations coming down the order... May be this helped,” Powar said.
“My natural tendency is to hit the ball. I will carry on in the same way I play for Mumbai” he said.