In the plush conference room at the Indian cricket board's headquarters in Mumbai on Friday, nearly 15 television cameras stood at one end of the room, like bowling machines. At the other end were Dilip Vengsarkar, the selection chairman, and Niranjan Shah, the cricket Board secretary. The two announced India's Test and one-day team for the Bangladesh tour. Then the bouncers began.
The tone of quite a few questions was one of disbelief, even mild outrage. It was triggered by some of the curious decisions taken on the day and the working committee's Big Brother attitude. Their directive to the selectors to pick young players for the tour found few supporters.
Vengsarkar and Shah did not flinch as they faced the barrage, but they weren't always convincing either.
Shah announced the one-day squad first. Bengal's Manoj Tiwary is the new face in it courtesy his stellar performances in the domestic season. While Tiwary's was an expected, even popular inclusion, Dinesh Mongia's was a curious one. It was contradictory to the Board's desire to have young players in the squad. The Punjab left-hander is already 30. But he's a left-hander. That went in his favour.
"Bangladesh have three left-arm spinners and we thought we should have a left-handed batsman in the team," Vengsarkar said. "This is a tour we could experiment with a bit. That is why we have tried out a few things."
If that was the case, why not rest an out of form player like Virender Sehwag and give more new cricketers a chance? "At the end of the day we have to win the series too," Vengsarkar said.
In the Test squad, the interesting choice is Dinesh Karthik, who will play as specialist opener with Wasim Jaffer. Karthik played at that position in the first innings of the Cape Town Test against South Africa and scored 63. "Karthik was preferred over (Gautam) Gambhir for the Cape Town Test and he delivered," Vengsarkar said. As Karthik is not a specialist opener (he does not open for Tamil Nadu), what lies ahead for England then?
In an expected move, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar and Irfan Pathan find no place in either team for performance reasons. "Harbhajan has not been bowling too well," said Vengsarkar. "Agarkar was not up to the mark in the World Cup."
There was also disappointment for Mumbai's Rohit Sharma. It was felt that the youngster would be in the team, but he didn't make it. He was discussed, as were opener Aakash Chopra ("unlucky") and Mohammad Kaif ("needs to score more in domestic cricket"). "Ultimately there are only 15 places," said Vengsarkar.
England hope for Bose
Lack of space was not the reason why Bengal pace bowler Ranadeb Bose, the highest wicket-taker of the last domestic season, did not find a spot on the bus to Bangladesh. It was felt that the pitches there would not be suitable for him. But Vengsarkar hinted that Bose would be in contention for the tour to England in June.
"He would do better in those conditions than in Bangladesh," Vengsarkar said. "Besides, there would be tour games in England. There are no practice matches in Bangladesh."
Bose, however, will be a part of the group of bowlers who have been asked to aid the team's preparation camp in Kolkata from May 2. The others are Pankaj Singh (Rajasthan), Yo Mahesh (Tamil Nadu), Ishant Sharma (Delhi) and Pragyan Ojha (Hyderabad).
ODI squad: Rahul Dravid (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Manoj Tiwary, S Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Piyush Chawla, Ramesh Powar and Dinesh Mongia.
Test squad: Rahul Dravid (capt), Wasim Jaffer, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, S Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan, Vikram Raj Vir Singh, Munaf Patel, Anil Kumble, Ramesh Powar and Rajesh Pawar
May 10: 1st ODI, Mirpur
May 12: 2nd ODI, Mirpur
May 15: 3rd ODI, Chittagong
May 18-22: 1st Test, Chittagong
May 25-29: 2nd Test, Mirpur