| Harbhajan Singh
Calcutta: There’s a big question mark over the injury-battling Sachin Tendulkar being available for the September 10-25 Champions Trophy.
According to The Telegraph’s sources in London, the maestro has been referred to a second specialist after the one who saw him on Thursday apparently couldn’t put a date to his recovery.
“At this moment, it’s not looking good… However, a decision on his immediate future will probably only be taken on Saturday,” one of the sources informed late in the evening.
Troubled by a tennis elbow, Sachin has already missed the tri-series in Holland and hasn’t been available for the ongoing NatWest Challenge against England either.
To talk of the NatWest, after yet another batting failure — despite seven specialists, in Nottingham — the Team India thinktank is contemplating fielding Ajit Agarkar to help improve chances of either posting a big total or successfully chasing one.
As another source remarked, Agarkar is “very well placed” to take the berth occupied by Ashish Nehra.
The second NatWest match is scheduled at The Oval on Friday.
“With the specialists not clicking, Agarkar’s presence is going to bolster the batting besides, obviously, giving some variety to the bowling,” the source added.
Agarkar’s highest in ODIs is 95 versus the West Indies in Jamshedpur (2002-03). Incidentally, those runs came when he was promoted as a pinch-hitter.
While Agarkar should replace Nehra, it’s absolutely certain that Harbhajan Singh will take Anil Kumble’s place.
In recent times, Kumble has been preferred to the younger off-spinner, but has to pay for being smashed (57 in a shade over six overs) in the opening game on Wednesday.
“If not anything else, the veteran’s confidence must be in tatters… Harbhajan, on the other hand, is going to be intent on proving a point,” explained another source.
Fair enough, but if confidence alone becomes a criteria, quite a few Indians are terribly short on that right now.
Inexplicably, the Team India thinktank continues to ignore the option of playing wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik in place of a specialist batsman like Rohan Gavaskar.
Such a move will take the pressure off Rahul Dravid, who hasn’t made a decent contribution since the start of the Asia Cup in mid July.
Karthik’s prowess with the bat, it may be recalled, helped him pip Mahender Singh Dhoni when the selectors met here last month to choose the squad for the tri-series, the NatWest and the Champions Trophy.
Meanwhile, Goutam Das Gupta is going to remain the manager beyond Sunday (when the current series ends) too. The Board, of course, could send across somebody as his assistant.
LIKELY INDIAN XI FOR THE OVAL
Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, V.V.S.Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Rohan Gavaskar, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Lakshmipathy Balaji.