The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Surat slip sets up Lahore suspense
- Indian run feast clouds late-comer Souravís first Test chances

Lahore, Jan. 8: Sourav Gangulyís personal reasons-driven decision to skip Bengalís Ranji match against Gujarat, which began the day after the Test squad for Pakistan was picked, may turn out to be a blunder of Himalayan proportions.

Had Sourav gone to Surat, chief selector Kiran More wouldnít have got another stick to beat him with and the former Team India captain would have arrived here on the same flight which brought 12 players (on Thursday), instead of landing last night.

After all, before heading for Pakistan, he was directed to play Bengalís home match versus Tamil Nadu.

Arriving late ruled Sourav out of the tour opener (against Pakistan A), in which every specialist Indian batsman scored 50-plus. The flat wicket at the soothing Bagh-e-Jinnah notwithstanding, runs in the city hosting the first Test (from Friday) are certain to count for more than successive fifties at the Eden.

That both specialist openers, Gautam Gambhir and Wasim Jaffer, got runs on the opening day confirmed that Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell would look at one of them ' possibly, the solid Jaffer ' to partner Virender Sehwag.

With the makeshift option out of the park, Yuvraj Singh had to fail to throw open the possibility of Sourav regaining a middle-order berth. But, then, even Yuvraj got 59 before retiring.

Asked whether he had been under pressure because of the competition, Yuvraj laughed. ďI never think of pressure... I go out in a positive frame of mind and seek to enjoy the cricket... Runs bana ke kafi khushi hui.'Ē

Nothing can ever be ruled out, but it does appear that Sourav will finish his career without a Test at the Gaddafi. He missed the one on the last tour, two years ago, as he had briefly gone home following a back injury.

Significantly, being the manager, critic No.1 Raj Singh Dungarpur is going to be the convenor of the tour selection committee. Besides captain Dravid, vice-captain Sehwag and coach Chappell, the committee will ' in a first ' include selector Bhupinder Singh (Sr).

Singh supported Souravís recall when the selectors met in Mumbai, but is unlikely to stick his neck out here. Dravid did favour playing Sourav, when the squad was picked, but the ground reality has changed since.

Sourav is keeping mum (ďI have nothing to say,Ē he told The Telegraph), but that didnít stop half-a-dozen TV crews from leaving the Bagh-e-Jinnah and rushing to the Pakistan Cricket Board Academy when word spread he would have nets there.

Anil Kumble and Parthiv Patel also went along, but the fourth player (Sehwag) to arrive late didnít.

Team India may not need Souravís services at the start of the three-Test series, but the Pakistani media wonít stop following him. Senior journalists, by the way, are amazed at the extraordinary turn of events.

Perhaps, Sourav is as amazed himself.

Footnote: Raj Singh and Sourav actually exchanged pleasantries this morning. The managerís controversial TV interview, though, didn't crop up. Given the position he is in, Sourav didnít broach it. As for Raj Singh, he must have forgotten his denial, too.

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