The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav looks at opening test
- As manager, Raj Singh speaks up for former skipper
Sourav Ganguly during a training session in Lahore on Thursday. (Reuters)

Lahore, Jan. 12: Given the overnight drama, anything is possible. However, as of late this evening, Sourav Ganguly was hours away from opening for the first time in a decade of Test cricket.

According to The Telegraph’s sources in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), manager Raj Singh Dungarpur was assigned to “convince” captain Rahul Dravid and, more important, coach Greg Chappell about the need to include Sourav in the series-launching Test at the Gaddafi from tomorrow.

Till the other day, Raj Singh had been tearing into the former captain. But, then, that’s past.

For now, at least.

Apparently, the captain and coach’s initial (and consistent) stand was that the in-form Yuvraj Singh wouldn’t be “sacrificed” and Sourav could only make it as vice-captain Virender Sehwag’s partner. It's not confirmed, but Dravid may himself have informed his predecessor about the new role.

While interacting with the Media, though, Dravid declined to declare even the Team India XII. Sourav, too, didn’t reveal anything.

Contacted at the Pearl Continental, he said: “I have no comment.' It’s for the captain and coach to decide where I fit in.' Obviously, whatever the requirement, I’m going to give my best shot.”

When up against Shoaib Akhtar, it can hardly be otherwise.

Going by the sequence of events this morning, Dravid probably ‘briefed’ Sourav before nets, at the Gaddafi.

And, to start with, the former captain and Sehwag had the first hit. Then, Sourav went over to the adjacent Academy for at least 20 minutes at the bowling machine.

For the first time since arriving six days ago, Sourav had a spring in his step. That the Test wicket is sans grass and the chill has lessened should make him more comfortable. If a reminder is needed, Sourav was selected as a specialist middle-order batsman, an improvement on the all-rounder status bestowed before the recent Tests versus Sri Lanka.

The move for Sourav’s comeback --- he didn’t play the last Test, in Motera --- was initiated late last evening after a very senior BCCI official telephoned Raj Singh, asking him to place a “suggestion” before Dravid and Chappell.

Basically, that it would be “sensible” to utilise the former captain’s experience (86 Tests) in a tough series. What, perhaps, wasn’t conveyed is that relegating Sourav to the reserves would start another controversy. If he didn’t have a place in the XI, what was the point of bringing him to Pakistan'

It’s another matter that Kiran More and Co. will now struggle to explain why they chose three openers (Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Wasim Jaffer) if somebody who has just done the job in ODIs had to partner the vice-captain.

In fact, it’s also a big climbdown for Chappell who, at the pre-departure Media conference in New Delhi, had highlighted the presence of “specialist openers”.

“If what you’re saying is correct, then it’s not a bad deal... Sourav has faced the new ball in over 200 (209, to be precise) ODIs and must make the most of this opportunity... It’s a challenge, but that’s the test,” remarked former India opener Arun Lal, who has known Sourav from close.

Whatever the conditions and the experience of opening in ODIs, it’s much more than a challenge. At 33, it couldn’t have got any tougher for Sourav. His fingers need to remain crossed, albeit for a different reason.

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