Calcutta: As expected, the Ashish Nehra vs Ajit Agarkar debate took up most of the national selectors’ time when they deliberated on Team India’s 14 for the Asia Cup, in Chennai, on Wednesday.
After 20-odd minutes, the more experienced Agarkar was pipped at the post. Nehra, therefore, is the one heading for the July 16-August 2 tournament in Sri Lanka.
The remaining 13, one understands, were picked inside “ten minutes.”
According to The Telegraph’s sources, “nobody” quite liked being party to omitting Agarkar. Equally, “everybody” felt Nehra is more of a matchwinner.
“Nobody disagreed over Agarkar being a better batsman and fielder… Yet, everybody acknowledged that Nehra stands a better chance of forcing the issue,” is how one source put it.
The selectors (chairman Syed Kirmani, Kirti Azad, Pranab Roy, Kiran More and Sanjay Jagdale) apart, the meeting was attended by captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright.
As is customary, the Board secretary (S.K.Nair) acted as convenor.
Even if Agarkar isn’t there, Team India is going to be at full-strength for the first time since the last World Cup, 16 months ago.
Largely due to injuries — and occasionally the need to rest — the Indians have gone through three tournaments (in Bangladesh, at home and in Australia) plus a bilateral series against Pakistan without all first-choice players.
The start of an action-packed 2004-05 season, at least, bodes well for Sourav, who turns 32 on Thursday.
Kirmani and Co., by the way, should be applauded for being firm on having specialist ’keeper Parthiv Patel. There was talk of ‘accommodating’ somebody else, given that the Emereld Isle isn’t far away, but nobody fell for that absurd argument.
After all, what if vice-captain Rahul Dravid pulled a muscle in the lead-up to the toss'
Actually, now that Parthiv is in the squad, it won’t surprise if the humid conditions in Dambulla and Colombo see him in the XI — that will allow Dravid focus on his top job.
Incidentally, though Agarkar has lost out this time, he could make it for the tri-series in Holland and the ICC Champions Trophy as Team India’s 15th member.
He hasn’t been derailed for good.
THE SQUAD & MORE
Batsmen: Sourav Ganguly (captain), Rahul Dravid (vice-captain), Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S.Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh.
Wicketkeeper: Parthiv Patel.
Spinners: Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh.
Quicks: Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan.
Coach: John Wright.
Physio: Andrew Leipus.
Physical trainer: Gregory King.
Manager: M.N.Dorairajan (Vidarbha).