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Balaji set to make NZ squad

Tamil Nadu coach WV Raman was expecting Lakshmipathy Balaji would make it to the South Zone squad before the Ranji Trophy semi-final against Uttar Pradesh, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Feb 12, 2009 00:00 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Tamil Nadu coach WV Raman was expecting Lakshmipathy Balaji would make it to the South Zone squad before the Ranji Trophy semi-final against Uttar Pradesh. Having done that and gone a step further by being Munaf Patel's replacement in the ODI squad in Sri Lanka, Balaji is now set to return to the Test squad when the selectors pick the 16 for the tour of New Zealand on Friday.

With a minimum of four medium-pacers set to make the cut if not a fifth one, Balaji's place is guaranteed at least as the fourth one behind Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Munaf, if he is declared fit. "As of now, we are told that Munaf has recovered. But Balaji is set to come in as the fourth one. If there is any debate, it will be over the fifth guy in case the team management wants one," said a BCCI source.

Balaji said he was delighted to come back to the India side and that he was not thinking about the New Zealand tour. "I am just playing for the love of playing. Everything happens through cricket and if my cricket goes well, things will fall in place," the bowler, who played the last of his eight Tests against Pakistan in March 2005, told HT on Wednesday.

"Although I am not thinking about stuff like selection at the moment, it was fantastic to be playing for India again. I never expected it to happen after spending such a long time off the ground," said Balaji, who returned to the fore in last season's Indian Premier League after back surgery. He played a big role in Tamil Nadu's passage to the Ranji semi-finals with 36 wickets in seven matches.