Finally, the 'big three' and other important members of the Indian team get a break from the game. Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, along with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, deputy Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh and S Sreesanth have been excused from the annual Challenger Series for the NKP Salve Trophy to be held in Ahmedabad from October 25 to 28.
"They have been rested," chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar told Hindustan Times on Friday. "They have all been playing continuously since the tour of Ireland in early July and deserve some rest," he added.
Of the players in the squad for the ongoing one-day series against Australia, 17 have been selected for the seven matches, only Dinesh Karthik, Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, Murali Kartik, Ramesh Powar and S Badrinath will figure in the Challengers, that has been sandwiched between the end of the Australia series and the start of the series against Pakistan.
Robin Uthappa has also been rested. What is surprising is the omission of the recently-recalled Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh from the teams, though they have been bowling well against Australia.
The three teams, India Red, India Green and India Blue, were apparently selected on Thursday but were released on Friday by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Niranjan Shah. The release does not state the reasons for the omission of the various national players. India 'A' captain Mohammad Kaif will lead Red while his successful wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel will captain Green. Virender Sehwag, who is expected to be reinstated in the Indian team during the ODI series against Pakistan, will be at the helm of Blue.
Vengsarkar had said in an earlier selection committee meeting that Sehwag would get his chance. Since the Delhi dashing opener was not given a chance against Australia, the Pakistan series presents a hope for him, and an outstanding performance in the Challengers would make his re-entry smooth into the Indian team.
Unlike in the past where the Challenger teams had all the senior players in action, this year's edition will see many new faces who are on the brink of national selection. They include players who have been on the India 'A' tour to Zimbabwe and Kenya recently and who were in the Rest of India team that won the Irani Cup against Mumbai. "This Challenger Series will give us a chance to see others who have been doing well for India 'A' and in the last domestic season," said Vengsarkar.