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Laxman likely to be dropped for third Test

Yuvraj, 'the prince charming', appears to be the frontrunner for the middle order slot.

india Updated: Jun 20, 2006 11:37 IST

The axe might fall on middle-order batsman VVS Laxman as India wriggle out of the holiday mode to concentrate on selection matters for the third cricket Test against West Indies starting here on Thursday.

The Indians might have done well in dominating the West Indies in the first two Tests but the fact that they have not been able to force a victory in either of the matches must be rankling the team management.

National selector VB Chandrashekhar stoked the debate on selection with the observation that a third spinner is perhaps the need of the hour, which is a sign of changing times as Harbhajan Singh is now seen as third option after Virender Sehwag made a strong impression in the two Tests.

Since only hints are dropped in the current Indian cricket set-up, it must be presumed, at a certain risk of course, that either Laxman or Yuvraj will be rested.

Yuvraj has better chances of being preferred over Laxman, although the reasons are hazy.

Laxman has played as significant innings as Yuvraj has in the last eight or nine months. Hints again must be used to draw one's own conclusions -- since there is a pattern in obsession with youth under the Dravid-Chappell dispensation, Yuvraj, 'the prince charming', appears to be the frontrunner for the middle order slot.

Conclusions are hazardous about a group of men who previously decided to head for a break to St Maarten after the second Test but then poled their tents in St Kitts, a clear week before the match. 

The public stance that the hotel in St Maarten was not quite ready did not wash much water with those are used to Indian cricket's ways. The suggestions in private by a few cricketers that it was coach Greg Chappell's way to put them on alert appeared more plausible.

Captain Rahul Dravid though kept asserting through the second Test he was serious about the "break needed for the boys" and as if to underline his point, he asked travelling crews of Indian television channels to excuse them as they headed for a day's break to Nevis, an adjoining island, on Saturday.

If speculation, in the absence of forthrightness from the team, is inescapable, then Dravid's demand for a break must be decoded as an attempt to send across the message that too much cricket is being played and that boys need break to freshen up for the challenges ahead.

Surely there are enough examples in the past to suggest overworked players are no good for the team, least of all to themselves. Ashish Nehra was squeezed out of energy when he was played in a first class game in Hobart during the taxing tour of Australia in 2003-04.

A couple of years earlier, Zaheer Khan and Ashish himself were spent as force for the remainder of the Caribbean tour after bowling India to win in the Port of Spain Test.

Australia, a leader in matters of science and psychology of the game, took the option of holiday when they toured India in 2004. The team broke up after a couple of Tests and a few players even went to South East Asia to recharge their batteries.

However, such complete disengagement from the team environment is not permitted to Indian cricketers, hence everyone lumbered up to Nevis for a semblance of a holiday. During this holiday, where there is no escaping the same faces, the cricketers were asked to somehow keep their minds off the game.

But holiday surely was not the need of hour for the under-used Suresh Rainas, Ramesh Powars, Dinesh Kaarthicks and even Harbhajan Singhs. Young bowlers like Munaf Patel and VRV Singh are surely not the case of burn-outs and can do with some more bending of back in the nets.

Anil Kumble is only required in Tests and is used to bowling long spells anyway so his 70 overs in the St. Lucia Test must not have required more attention than an extra half-an-hour of ice-pack on his bowling shoulder. So it must be for other Test specialists such as Wasim Jaffer and Laxman.

But there is a case for rest for the likes of Sehwag, Dravid, Yuvraj, Kaif, Dhoni and Pathan -- six of the team's lot who should make the cut for the third Test.