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Selectors get down and 30

The selectors meet in Rajkot to select the 15-member squad for the first half of the four-match ODI series against the Windies, writes G Krishnan.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2007 23:17 IST
G Krishnan

The real test begins now for the Indian team. The national selectors meet in Rajkot to select the 15-member squad for the first half of the four-match One-day series against the West Indies and the 30 probables for the World Cup in the West Indies in March-April.

Coach Greg Chappell and captain Rahul Dravid, who is playing a Ranji Trophy Super League match here, will get a first opportunity to give the selectors a detailed account of India’s recent South African tour before picking the two squads.

India’s last phase of serious preparation for the mega event will begin with the four-match one-day series against the West Indies (starting on January 21) followed by another series of equal number of matches against Sri Lanka (from February 8).

India's recent performances in one-day internationals do not present a pleasing sight. In 51 ODIs since Chappell took over as coach, India have won 26 and lost 23. Most of them came in the first half of that period — 3-0 in Zimbabwe, 2005, 6-1 against Lanka at home, 2005, 4-1 in Pakistan, and 5-1 at home vs England, 2006.

India’s results since the 1-4 loss in the West Indies last May have become a matter of serious concern and even pose a question mark on their chances of qualifying beyond the Super League stage.

If the experience of Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman are to be seriously considered in the Caribbean islands, they have to be tried out in the upcoming home series, especially after the experiments with younger players did not produce the desired results.

Virender Sehwag, who has been woefully out of form in recent times, is one who will have to return to form if India are to post healthy totals. With the current frame of mind Sehwag has been in, ‘resting’ him for a couple of ODIs leading up to the quadrennial event may not harm his own cause.

He might have scored a century immediately on his return from a nightmarish tour to South Africa but the quality of the Haryana attack and pitch conditions in Rohtak are good enough for first class teams, nothing beyond.

Those who have excelled in the current Ranji season may have pushed their claims for inclusion in the list of probables. Karnataka opener Robin Uthappa (highest run-getter in Ranji this season) may be a serious threat to Sehwag while Haryana medium-pacer Joginder Sharma may also be considered after emerging as the most successful bowler in the ongoing Ranji Trophy.

However, with it being the World Cup, the Indian think-tank will not take any chances by calling in rookies. Experience will certainly be the watchword and there may not be much change from the team that has played in recent times.

Ganguly and Laxman cannot be discounted. The return of Anil Kumble to the limited-overs version may cause a few sleepless nights to Harbhajan Singh, whose performances have been disappointing over the last year. The non-performing Irfan Pathan will be a major discussion and the selectors might well leave him out of the list.

By the time the series against Sri Lanka reaches its middle mark next month, India would have more or less zeroed in on the World Cup party. It is the performances in the ensuing six of the eight games -- four against the Caribbeans and two against Lanka (the last two matches against the Lankans are after the ICC deadline of February 13 to submit the final 15) -- that will be crucial.

It is not necessary that all of the 30 probables may be tried out in the two home series. At the same time, it need not be construed that those who have not been selected for the series against the Windies and Lanka may be out of the World Cup list. Key players like Yuvraj Singh may be rested in the first few games so as to give him more time to recover from the knee injury.