The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Agarkar-Nehra toss-up likely
- Only 14 for Asia Cup, says Board secretary

Calcutta:The national selectors are under the impression that the Asia Cup squad will be 15-strong. However, the Board has confirmed the tournament rules don’t allow that many.

“We’re going to be guided by what’s laid down in black-and-white and, so, 14 will be picked,” informed Board secretary S.K. Nair, when contacted on his cell in Thiruvananthapuram.

The selectors — chairman Syed Kirmani, Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale — meet in Chennai on Wednesday afternoon not just to choose the Sri Lanka-bound side but the A squad for Zimbabwe-Kenya too.

In fact, Kirmani and Co. are already there and watched a ‘practice’ game between the probables on Tuesday morning.

[Incidentally, the inspirational Geoffrey Boycott extended his stay by a day and was present at the Chepauk when the Zaheer Khans went flat out.]

That only 14 can be picked is bound to ‘affect’ the selectors somewhat. More important, it almost surely means bad news for Hemang Badani as Kirmani is firm about including Parthiv Patel for the July 16-August 2 Asia Cup.

After all, for specialist wicketkeeper Parthiv to make it, the 14 cannot have more than seven batsmen (including dual role stalwart Rahul Dravid, the vice-captain) and Badani doesn’t qualify for that ‘club’.

Dravid apart, the batsmen are: Captain Sourav Ganguly (who may revert to an opening slot), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, the longest debate is going to be over who to leave out from among the five frontline quicks/medium-pacers: Ajit Agarkar, Ashish Nehra, Zaheer, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Irfan Pathan.

Clearly, after Pakistan, Pathan and Balaji can’t be touched. Then, the selectors are “absolutely satisfied” with Zaheer’s fitness. The toss-up, therefore, has to be between Agarkar and Nehra.

One understands even Sourav hasn’t exactly decided on who to back. As for coach John Wright, he will go along with the captain.

Eventually, then, it could wholly be Sourav’s call.

While there’s some uncertainty over the new-ball bowlers, spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh walk into the side.

Harbhajan, of course, is going to make a comeback after being off big-time cricket for seven months.

Footnote: Meanwhile, former South African allrounder and coach Mike Procter will be the senior Match Referee during the tournament. In the first stage, though, he is going to be assisted by Roshan Mahanama, who has captained in ODIs. Procter is on the ICC’s Elite Panel; Mahanama is a Sri Lanka Cricket nominee on the world body’s non-contracted line-up.

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