Never before has an India A selection been followed with such curiosity. With five players of considerable international experience among those in contention, Saturday’s selection committee meeting to select the A team for the forthcoming tour of Zimbabwe and Kenya and the probables for the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship has attained enormous importance.
The big question, however, is whether Virender Sehwag will make the A team. The answer lies in whether the five wise men — headed by Dilip Vengsarkar — have either a Board directive, or have made up their mind to select a squad consisting of youngsters, especially the under-25 players.
Selectors, when spoken to, said on condition of anonymity that they had no such directive but added that in addition to a few seniors looking for a recall, they would look to pick a young squad with an eye to the future.
But Sehwag, according to sources, will not figure because he is “too senior to be part of the squad.” However, things, as is wont in Indian cricket, might change Saturday noon.
<b1>Mohammad Kaif, who has been ignored since India’s tour to South Africa, is the likeliest candidate to lead. With Sehwag unlikely, his Delhi teammate Aakash Chopra (also picked for a Craig McMillan led-MCC side scheduled to play Sri Lanka A in England next week) and Karnataka’s Robin Uthappa (back from Ireland and probably itching for a game) are likely to face the new ball (if the selectors go for a mix).
Saurashtra’s talented middle-order bat, Cheteshwar Pujara, could also be another option for the top of the order since he has played as a makeshift opener, while logically, S. Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary and Rohit Sharma should also make the cut. Kaif’s critics will probably point out that since making his international debut in March 2000, he has scored only three centuries — one in Tests and two in ODIs. However, they ignore the fact that he has been in and out of the Test squad (and hardly played any Tests) and batted at No. 7 in ODIs for the better part of his career.
It would also be interesting to see whether the selectors pick one or two wicketkeepers. While Parthiv Patel is the automatic No. 1 choice, it remains to be seen if another glovesman will be selected. There’s not much choice. Mumbai’s Omkar Gurav, who has impressed both as a ‘keeper and batsman during his under-19 stint, seems the only other young glovesman to watch out for. The bowlers though, may well pick themselves.