Dhaka: Asia’s captaincy for next month’s Afro-Asia Cup has been split, not between India’s Rahul Dravid and Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene, but Pakistan’s Shoaib Malik and Jayawardene.
Despite the tournament being held in India (Bangalore, Chennai), Dravid made himself unavailable to stay fresh for the long tour of England. Had he been game, the captaincy would almost surely have been split between him and Jayawardene.
Dravid routed his excuse-me request (“Mentally I won’t be there”) through the Board of Control for Cricket in India. It was conveyed to India’s nominee on the selection panel, Chetan Chauhan, shortly before Friday morning’s meeting.
Chauhan, apparently, tried to convince Dravid to change his mind. He failed.
That there could be different captains for the Twenty20 International (June 5) and the three ODIs (June 6, 9, 10) was reported by The Telegraph in the lead-up to the selection meeting.
The Afro-Asia Cup is an Afro-Asian Cricket Cooperation venture. The body is headed by Sharad Pawar, who is also at the helm in India. It’s hardly original, but ‘Cricket for Unity’ is the tournament’s theme.
Only five Indians — Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh — figure in the XIV-man squad for the ODIs. Munaf Patel stands alone in the Twenty20 XI.
Despite an excellent comeback in ODIs, Sourav Ganguly hasn’t been picked. According to sources, he “lost out” to the younger Upul Tharanga.
“Sanath Jayasuriya has consistently done enough over the past year... He had to be there... Sourav was considered for an opening slot, but the younger Tharanga’s claims were eventually seen as being stronger,” a source pointed out.
Sourav wasn’t selected for the inaugural edition as well, in August 2005. India’s nominee on that selection panel was the current cricket manager, Ravi Shastri.
“His (Sourav’s) name was discussed, but we decided to focus on a young team,” Chauhan explained at the media conference. He wasn’t convincing.
Jayasuriya turns 38 next month and, so, isn’t young. However, once he made himself available, Sri Lankan selector Lalith Kaluperuma had no choice but to ensure he got picked without debate.
The question being asked is: Shouldn’t Chauhan have pushed for Sourav' Unless, of course, there was a suggestion from influential quarters that the former captain had to be kept out.
Harbhajan’s inclusion is interesting as he has been dropped for the ongoing tour of Bangladesh. He got the nod as Muttiah Muralidharan made himself unavailable.
Like Murali, Kumar Sangakkara and Younis Khan weren’t considered as they too have County commitments.
Pretty scandalous has been the scandal-inviting Shoaib Akhtar’s selection. He hasn’t played for months, but got picked as he can attract crowds and TV audiences. Sponsors as well.
“Pakistan’s nominee (Mohsin Khan) insisted he’s fit... That’s why we selected him,” remarked Chauhan, who has been a national selector.
Mohsin, for his part, said: “Shoaib wasn’t available for the forthcoming matches in Abu Dhabi, but told the Board he would be fit for the Afro-Asia Cup... It’s after being fully convinced that I put forward his case...”
Given Shoaib’s track record, though, one wonders whether Jayawardene is actually going to be delighted with his presence in the dressing room.
Shoaib’s inclusion worked against Zaheer Khan and Bangladesh’s lead quick, Mashrafe Mortaza. “Look, we couldn’t pick everybody... Some have been adjusted in the Twenty20 XI...” is how Chauhan defended himself and his colleagues.
That “adjustment” got Mortaza a place in the shortest version, but it did send out an unfortunate signal: That names often do matter most.
Indeed, Bangladesh selector A.F.M. Farooque admitted as much when he spoke of “good names” and “famous names”.
Mortaza, however, is one of four stand-bys for the ODIs. The others are Dinesh Karthik, Shahid Afridi and another Bangladeshi, left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak. Afridi and Razzak have been selected for the Twenty20 International.
The stand-bys haven’t been officially announced.
In keeping with its commitment towards helping charities/organisations doing social work, the Afro-Asian Cricket Cooperation will donate 10 per cent of profits to Sight Savers International.
THE ASIA LINE-UPS
Twenty20 International: Shoaib Malik (captain), Imran Nazir, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (all from Pakistan), Tamim Iqbal, Mohammed Ashraful, Abdur Razzak, Mashrafe Mortaza (all from Bangladesh), Tillekeratne Dilshan, Fervez Mahroof (both from Sri Lanka) and Munaf Patel (India).
The ODIs: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga (all from Sri Lanka), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh (all from India), Mohammed Yousuf, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammed Asif (all from Pakistan), Mohammed Rafique (Bangladesh).
Coach: Roger Binny; Manager: Sultan Rana; Physio: John Gloster. The Team India physio will, in fact, work with Asia and Africa.
Note: If necessary, the captain and coach are going to nominate the vice-captain.