| Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in Mumbai on Tuesday. (AFP)
Mumbai: The series has been lost, but the Team India think tank appears reluctant to drop an out of form Rahul Dravid and give youngster Rohit Sharma a rare opportunity.
Dravid, who decided not to continue as captain after the tour of England, has contributed no more than 51 in five matches (he didn’t bat in Bangalore) of the Future Cup.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, no decision had been taken till Tuesday night, but the tone of somebody associated with the selection process suggested status quo would be maintained when the XI for the final ODI is finalised.
While Dravid is set to be retained, there’s talk that Sreesanth may be dropped. The think tank, it seems, believes Rudra Pratap Singh, who swings the ball prodigiously, would be a better bet at the Wankhede.
But, then, all three new ball-bowlers (others being Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan) will then again be left-handers… Not that the variety provided by Sreesanth, who made a comeback in Nagpur the other day, made any difference.
To add to the think tank’s problems, left-arm spinner Murali Kartik injured his right thumb during Tuesday’s nets. “It’s swollen and part of the nail has also come off… It’s throbbing right now… Hopefully, I should be okay… I’m praying,” he said, speaking exclusively.
Kartik, MoM in the last Test against Australia here (late 2004), got injured while fielding.
If he’s ruled out, then the think tank could opt for an extra seamer in Rudra Pratap or an extra batsman in Mumbaikar Sharma.
Up 4-1, the Australians are either going to retain the XI which wrapped up the series in Nagpur or bring back Matthew Hayden, who missed that match because of a hip strain.
“Matthew trained at 85-95 per cent today, but we won’t be taking a decision till the morning… We want to see how he pulls up,” pointed out captain Ricky Ponting.
If Hayden is fit, then Brad Haddin will have to go out.
Ponting promised his team wouldn’t let up just because the series had been pocketed. “We’ve played some excellent cricket, particularly in the last two ODIs (Vadodara, Nagpur)… It’s not that we came to seek vengeance for the World Twenty20 defeat, we came to play well and become better cricketers…”
Commenting on a rather astonishing achievement — his spinners doing better than the Indians, Ponting said: “I don’t know whether it’s because our spinners have bowled better or our batsmen have played the Indians better… (Brad) Hogg is our most underrated player… He’s 36, but continues to learn and his wrong ’un has been hard to pick.”
On the gamesmanship issue, Ponting’s reaction was “Enough… Just about enough…” when somebody raised it during his interaction with the media. “I think people should focus on the positives of this series, not the negatives… In Nagpur, for example, we had a great game of cricket…”
Incidentally, Wednesday’s day-night match is going to be the Wankhede’s last international fixture for some years as it’s going to be renovated for the 2011 World Cup.
So, will the series’ final ODI mark the last appearance, in India colours, of the Big Three there' Perhaps, that factor alone may actually help attract a big crowd.
It’s rare for the ground staff to get attention, but former India cricketer Sudhir Naik and his men deserve compliments for ensuring that the Wankhede recovered from the damage during last month’s World Twenty20-winning team’s felicitation.
India (from): Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Rudra Pratap Singh, Rohit Sharma, Murali Kartik.
Australia: Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden/Brad Haddin, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Brad Hodge, Andrew Symonds, James Hopes, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Hogg, Nathan Bracken.
Umpires: Aleem Dar, Amish Saheba; TV: Suresh Shastri.
Match Referee: Chris Broad.
Match starts: 2.30pm.