| Former England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott with Sachin Tendulkar’s son Arjun during the Mumbai versus Bengal Ranji Trophy final in Mumbai on Saturday. (Fotocorp)
Feb. 3: It’s not official, but unless Virender Sehwag proves a super flop and Munaf Patel shows signs of being less than one hundred per cent fit in the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka, the February 12 meeting to pick the World Cup XV won’t be anything more than a formality.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, the XV chosen for the two matches this afternoon is actually the India squad which (as of now) will travel to the West Indies as well.
As the first ODI is at the Eden on Thursday, Calcuttans are going to have the first look at the World Cup-bound squad.
The second is in Rajkot a day before the senior national selectors (chairman Dilip Vengsarkar, Venkatapathi Raju, Bhupinder Singh, Sanjay Jagdale and Ranjib Biswal) meet in Mumbai to pick the XV.
Assuming Sehwag and Munaf get their act right, the World Cup squad will have six ‘new’ faces: Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth and Munaf himself.
The remaining nine — captain Rahul Dravid, vice-captain Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan — were in the 2003 squad when Team India made the final.
Sachin, in fact, is mere weeks away from his fifth (and probably last) World Cup.
That Sehwag and Munaf would be recalled was, incidentally, reported in these columns yesterday.
“The time for experiments is over…. Now, we’ve got to see the best in match conditions…. A rethink is only going to be done if Sehwag and Munaf sow doubts,” is what a well-placed source pointed out.
Talking to the media in Mumbai, Vengsarkar confirmed Sehwag would bat in the middle order versus Sri Lanka. That, apparently, won’t change in the World Cup.
It’s to be seen if Sachin gets back an opener’s berth, though. Sentiment favours the revival of the Sourav-Sachin partnership, but coach Greg Chappell has scripted another strategy.
It worked in Vadodara.
Sehwag can be counted upon for some off-spin and that helped. It went against Ramesh Powar.
Powar has backers in the establishment and, to be fair, has never let the team down, but three specialist spinners would be a bit too much. Even in conditions which should help the slower bowlers.
In any case, Sachin and Yuvraj have the ability to lend variety to the bowling. The former even has close to 150 wickets in limited overs cricket.
While Powar must consider himself unlucky, young Suresh Raina will curse himself for not making the most of the opportunities this season.
Not long ago, it was difficult imagining he wouldn’t be heading for the West Indies. Today, his slot has gone to Karthik, who could also wear the big gloves if first-choice Dhoni has a problem.
Karthik may not be a Raina on the field, but is still quite good. Plus, his batting is sound.
“He comes as a package,” is how another source put it. That’s the present-day requirement.