| Zaheer Khan
Chandigarh: Left-arm mediumpacer Zaheer Khan and left-handed opener Gautam Gambhir are tipped to make the Team India 15 for the five-match ODI series in South Africa, beginning November 19. The three Tests there begin later.
“Injuries to Ajit Agarkar and Yuvraj Singh have opened the door for them... It’s not confirmed that they will board the flight for South Africa, but it’s going to be a surprise if they don’t make the squad,” a well-placed source told The Telegraph Sunday.
While Agarkar fractured his left thumb, Thursday, Yuvraj twisted his left knee two days later. Board secretary Niranjan Shah confirmed that the former would be out of action for “four weeks.” The extent of Yuvraj’s lay-off will be known after his injury has been “assessed” by the Mumbai-based Dr Anant Joshi.
The selectors — chairman Dilip Vengsarkar, Venkatapathi Raju, Bhupinder Singh, Sanjay Jagdale and Ranjib Biswal — meet here Monday morning. They may, by the way, ask the Board for permission to send an extra player.
It’s going to be a first for this quintet: Even though the Champions Trophy began after the committee came into being last month, the squad had been picked under Kiran More’s chairmanship.
The source added: “Sourav Ganguly would have been in the frame, and pretty strongly at that, had he got runs in the Challenger and the Duleep Trophy... In four innings, he couldn’t even get a 30, forget anything better...”
The committee has two new faces (Vengsarkar and Raju), but the former captain shouldn’t expect any sympathy. First, he must himself perform.
While Zaheer’s last ODI was in Karachi, eight months ago, Gambhir’s last appearance was in the Faridabad match against England (end-March).
Significantly, even though veteran Anil Kumble has resumed playing, the selectors don’t seem inclined to recall him straightaway. “Domestic cricket is allowing Kumble to get into rhythm, but he’s very valuable and we don’t want to rush his return at the international level... Let’s see,” is how one of the selectors put it.
Kumble had to go off cricket when he developed tendonitis on his bowling shoulder while turning out for Surrey after the Test series in the West Indies this summer.
LIKELY 15 (as of Sunday night)
Batsmen: Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Kaif, Dinesh Mongia, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina.
Wicketkeeper: Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Spinners: Harbhajan Singh, Ramesh Powar/Anil Kumble.
Mediumpacers: Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel.
Dark horse: Tamil Nadu batsman S. Badrinath.