| Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid walk back to the pavilion after the victory. (AFP)
Mohali, Oct. 28: With Team India tearing Sri Lanka to bits for the second time in four days, Sourav Ganguly’s hopes of a one-day comeback also went to pieces. His career in cricket’s shorter version is as good as over even though chief selector Kiran More held out a lollipop.
“Sourav is a great player and we have a lot of regard for him... I won’t take names, but anybody can make a comeback,” he declared at a media conference where board secretary S.K. Nair announced that the XV for the first two ODIs had been retained for the next three as well.
Yet, in much the same breath, More said: “Things are not in Sourav’s favour and we’ve chosen the best XV. We have options and are looking to have 22 players fit and ready for the 2007 World Cup. This team has performed very well and its body language has been excellent.”
More indirectly confirmed that neither captain Rahul Dravid nor coach Greg Chappell wanted Sourav back by saying “no comments” to a question whether they spoke up for somebody who was at the helm till a fortnight ago.
Even accounting for the emphatic wins in Nagpur and the one here, today had been Sourav’s best chance for a comeback. He had, after all, proved both form and fitness with a splendid 117 in a Duleep Trophy match versus North Zone.
However, More and Chappell (if not Dravid as well) were in “regular touch” even before Tuesday’s ODI in Nagpur ' something revealed by the chief selector himself ' and the mood obviously was to back the youngsters and keep Sourav out.
In fact, The Telegraph’s sources had indicated yesterday itself that Sourav’s return wasn’t guaranteed and another quality performance by Team India ' as it turned out, Sri Lanka got crushed in no time by eight wickets at the PCA Stadium ' would make it even more difficult.
That’s how the cookie crumbled and, essentially, the 32-minute selection meeting was to extend the lack of faith in the fourth most prolific scorer in ODIs. “Continuity was the theme and the aim was to not disturb the good vibes in the dressing room,” is how a source put it.
The selectors’ decision, though, has stunned many ' one being former India opener Arun Lal, who is on the TV commentary panel for the series: “I’m amazed... I definitely thought there would be a place for Sourav. Now, he has to continue fighting.”
Technically, Sourav may come into the picture when the selectors meet in Ahmedabad on November 6, but few will bet on his comeback for the last two ODIs. If Mohammed Kaif is fit by then, the selectors are bound to favour him. The advantage of age and fielding is with Kaif.
More talked of giving “enough opportunities” ' specifically “20-30 matches” ' to the youngsters before the quadrennial showpiece in the West Indies. Fairness demands that everybody be judged by one yardstick.