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Some theatre, some absurdity

Injuries force Board to announce 24 probables for Australian tour as Kumble is retained the Test captain, reports Rohit Mahajan.

cricket Updated: Dec 06, 2007 01:42 IST
Rohit Mahajan

The lights were ready, the cameras were trained, it was all set for action — but the protagonist, the man who’s been raising a storm over the last few days, seemed to have gone missing. Dilip Vengsarkar’s flight from Mumbai to Bangalore, to attend the selection committee meeting, was delayed by a couple of hours.

One man conspicuously present was Anil Kumble, who was named captain for the tour of Australia as well. Mediapersons practically laid a siege to Grand Ashok, where the Indian and Pakistani squads are staying — they were not allowed in, even if they wished to enjoy the hotel’s hospitality at one of the restaurants.

As the skies darkened and rumbled occasionally, as the air became heavy with promise of rain, the mediapersons milled outside the glass façade of the hotel, devising means and ways of getting in.

Finally, Vengsarkar arrived and thus began what was later described as a “friendly, argument-free meeting”. It lasted around 90 minutes. BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah announced the names and then disappeared in double quick time, no questions were taken.

And thus the questions remain.

The key decision was to not name the 16-member squad for Australia because of the injuries to all the main pacemen. After the Kolkata carnage, in which batsmen cried tears of joy, Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel have joined the list of injured pacemen. That’s the reason the selectors opted to name 24 probables — a seemingly illogical decision, but dictated by the need to get visas for the players on time. The squad will be named on December 12, and it leaves for Australia four days later — the BCCI did not wish to cut it too fine.

There are eight batsmen, 13 bowlers and three wicketkeepers among the 24. Apart from wicketkeeper-opener Dinesh Karthik, Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir and Aakash Chopra are the specialist openers. Virender Sehwag is not among the 24. S. Sreesanth, out of the picture with a shoulder injury, is also missing from the list.

A selection committee source told HT that they are looking to take three of the four openers to Australia, and that no decision has been made yet.

Karthik, who has had a poor run in his recent Tests and ODIs, would thus be under pressure to perform in the Bangalore Test. Karthik’s utility lies in his combining the roles of the second wicketkeeper and regular opener.

His failure and possible exit will affect the team balance —Parthiv Patel (second wicketkeeper) and Chopra (third opener) would have to replace him. Karthik’s success, thus, is important for both him and India. Less worrying, and more immediate, concern is over the Bangalore Test — the pace attack that did duty in the previous two Tests, Zaheer and Munaf, has been wiped out. Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma and VRV Singh are the men who’ve come in.

Pathan has not played a Test since the Gros Islet Test vs the West Indies in June 2006, Singh has played just five, and his recent Ranji Trophy form has not been encouraging. Sharma is yet to make his Test debut.

VRV Singh’s selection is shocking, since he had struggled badly in the 24 overs he bowled in the Ranji match against West Bengal which got over on Tuesday.

HT’s correspondent from that game said that Singh kept drifting widely outside off or leg stump. Among his competitors, Ranadeb Bose was miles ahead. A very strange decision indeed on a day which again brought forth the BCCI penchant for the absurd.

Delhi chief selector Chetan Chauhan would be the administrative manager for the Tests in Australia.

Team for third Test: Anil Kumble (capt), MS Dhoni, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, Wasim Jaffer, Ishant Sharma, Vikram Raj Vir Singh, Murali Kartik & Dinesh Kartik.