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Friend in need is a friend indeed

When Piyush Chawla was selected in India's squad for the last year's World Twenty20 on March 26, it gave rise to murmurs of the Uttar Pradesh all-rounder's proximity to India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

cricket Updated: Jan 18, 2011 00:54 IST
Amol Karhadkar

When Piyush Chawla was selected in India's squad for the last year's World Twenty20 on March 26, it gave rise to murmurs of the Uttar Pradesh all-rounder's proximity to India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

However, the talk died down once the selectors justified the decision of Chawla's ability to chip in all the three departments of the game and his impressive show in the first fortnight of IPL3.

Almost 10 months later, after Chawla has been picked in India's World Cup, whispers of Chawla benefitting from his friendship with the India skipper have again started doing the rounds in Indian cricketing circles.

This is nowhere an effort to undermine Chawla's credentials as a cricketer. He had a decent Ranji season with the bat and the ball. But in his last 50-over tourney, the leggie failed to impress with the ball, picking up four wickets at 35.75 apiece in the 27 overs he bowled in the Challenger Trophy in October.

So when a man who played the last of his 21 ODIs almost three years ago gets picked in the squad for a tournament as big as the World Cup, questions will surely be asked about the rationale behind the decision.

It was learnt that once the team management made it clear during Monday's selection committee meeting that the skipper was 100 per cent and they didn't need a back-up 'keeper, "especially since the tournament is being held in India so a replacement can easily be flown in on the morning of the match in case of emergency", the 15th man in the squad was either going to be either Rohit Sharma/ S Sreesanth/ Chawla or Pragyan Ojha.

With the selectors ruling out the need for an eighth specialist batsman, Sharma (who is also a close friend of Dhoni's) was out of the race. What clinched the deal for Chawla was a clear indication from the team management for a "third spinner who is ideally a leggie" over a seamer.

The preference for a leggie was based on the pivotal role the Indian wrist spinners, especially against Western oppositions, have played in big tournaments, may it be L Sivaramakrishnan in the World Championship of Cricket in 1985 or Narendra Hirwani's man of the series-winning outing in Sharjah in 1988.

While the selectors adhered to the demand of the team management, they would be wondering that when it comes to bowling leg-spin, Chawla is nowhere close to his predecessors, one of them being a part of the committee himself.