The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kaif has much support
- Sachin 'keen' on 1st Test, but question mark stays

Calcutta: Sachin Tendulkar has been in fairly regular contact with Team India coach John Wright and, on Thursday, confirmed he was 'keen' to play the first Test against Australia (in Bangalore, from October 6).

Till late in the evening, though, the Board hadn't received anything in writing from the Mumbai-based maestro who has been off cricket for six weeks owing to a tennis elbow.

In fact, one of the selectors told The Telegraph he hasn't even thought of picking Sachin straight after such a lengthy lay-off. 'Certainly not for a big series,' he added.

Sachin's comeback, therefore, probably won't be in the immediate future.

For the record, Sachin's wife Anjali had this to say when calls were made to their apartment: 'He's better, yes, but I can't comment about his making himself available'

The selectors ' only Kiran More, now the chairman, and Pranab Roy are there from the previous committee ' meet in Bangalore on Friday, at the end of the India Senior-India A match.

Incidentally, the fresh faces among the selectors are 1983 World Cupper Yashpal Sharma, Gopal Sharma and V.B. Chandrasekhar.

Assuming Sachin isn't available, the selectors are expected to bring back Mohammed Kaif ' the last of his four Tests was over three years ago ' and look at giving the gifted Sridharan Sriram a call-up.

Also being talked about is Andhra's prolific 22-year-old right-hander, Yalaka Venugopal Rao. Apparently, captain Sourav Ganguly has a high opinion, but it's debatable whether he will be preferred to somebody like Sriram.

Gujarat's left-handed opener, Dheeraj Subhas Jadhav, who scored a superb 113 for India A on Thursday, has also made an excellent impression. That too when the frontrunners ' Virender Sehwag, Akash Chopra (who has, by the way, taken ill in Bangalore) and Yuvraj Singh ' have all been flopping.

However, it's to be seen whether an overwhelmingly new selection committee is going to stick its neck out.

Parthiv Patel will, of course, be the sole 'keeper (back after being omitted for recent ODI commitments), while the bowlers' selection shouldn't see any surprise.

If five are picked ' three seamers and two spinners ' then in the XIV are going to be Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

Amit Bhandari and Murali Kartik will come into the reckoning if the selectors (plus Sourav and Wright) feel the need for an extra new ball-operator/spinner.


(Assuming Sachin Tendulkar isn't available)

Certainties: Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan.

Almost there: Mohammed Kaif.

Well-placed: Sridharan Sriram.

Under pressure: Yuvraj Singh, Akash Chopra.

May come into picture: Murali Kartik, Amit Bhandari.

Dark horse: Yalaka Venugopal Rao/Dheeraj Subhas Jadhav.

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