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Since 1st March, 1999
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Sachin, Murali game for a cause
- Six Indians in Asian squad for MCG fund-raiser
Captain Sourav is ‘happy’ with the selection

Calcutta: That an eminently worthy cause stands taller than individual problems/misgivings was reinforced on Monday when Sachin Tendulkar and Muttiah Muralidharan made themselves available for the January 10 tsunami fund-raiser at the MCG.

Sachin has been advised 'complete rest' for the time being and Muralidharan had vowed (in mid-2004) never again to tour Australia. Even though the status ' as of now ' isn't that of a one-day International, the stalwarts wanted to be part of an extraordinary event.

Accordingly, both have been picked in the squad from which the Asia XI is going to be finalised. The opposition, Ricky Ponting-led ICC XI, was selected a day earlier.

Sourav Ganguly has, as expected (reported in these columns on Sunday), been named captain.

Sachin won't bat, but given that he is such a huge draw everywhere, it's expected he will take the field as a substitute during the 50 overs each side day-night match.

Muralidharan, of course, didn't tour Australia at the start of this season. What irked him, more than anything else, was Prime Minister John Howard's description of him as a 'chucker.'

Yet, when Sri Lanka's chief selector Asantha de Mel talked to him before leaving for Dhaka (venue of the Asian selectors' meeting), cricket's most successful off-spinner said he was game.

Muralidharan, it may be noted, is coming off a shoulder surgery.

The meeting, by the way, had to be deferred by a couple of hours as Lanka's chief selector arrived late.

As for Pakistan's Wasim Bari, he couldn't make it at all and was consulted over the phone by his Indian counterpart, Kiran More. Bangladesh's Farukh Ahmed was present.

Incidentally, Asian Cricket Council (ACC) chief executive Syed Ashraful Haq, who convened the selection meeting, is going to be the manager. The coach's hat will be worn by Bob Woolmer.

According to More, the meeting proper 'didn't take more than ten minutes.'

'The squad was chosen unanimously' Sourav's appointment too was unanimous' I quite enjoyed the experience,' he remarked when contacted on his cell soon after arriving here via a late evening flight from the Bangladesh capital.

With four Pakistanis (Inzamam-ul Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammed Sami, Shoaib Malik) and Irfan Pathan injured, the options were limited but the selectors have still put together a formidable squad.

Not surprisingly, the strongest representation is from India ' Sourav, Sachin, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan. Again, expectedly, Bangladesh has token representation in Alok Kapali.

Meanwhile, speaking to The Telegraph, Sourav said he was 'happy' with the selection. 'The collective wisdom of four chief selectors came into play and, so, I don't have reservations,' he observed.

The captain, however, agreed the fund-raiser would be 'more competitive' if the match gets ODI status. Clearly, his own approach is then going to be different.

The ACC president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, has already proposed that both fund-raisers ' the second will most probably be at the Eden in mid-February ' be accorded official recognition.

The ICC, for now, hasn't made a commitment.

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