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Zaheer, Gambhir could be back

india Updated: Oct 30, 2006 03:17 IST
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India's selection committee meets on Monday for the first time under Dilip Vengsarkar to pick the One-day squad for the tour of South Africa beginning this month.

India are due to play five One-dayers and one Twenty20 game before taking on South Africa in three Test matches (the Test squad is expected to be announced later).

The meeting is expected to see a lot of debate, particularly as India have had a rather dismal run in One-day cricket of late. And this Champions Trophy ouster without even making the semifinals would definitely rankle.

But wholesale changes, or even major ones, are unlikely, not just because the World Cup is really close but also because for the most, those who are playing are really the best around.

Already, Vengsarkar is reported to be extremely upset with some of the decisions the Indian think-tank has made in certain games — both with regard to the playing XI and the constant movement in the batting order. That though, if true, is another story.

Normally, the squad would be of 15 players. But if the selectors put in a request, an extra player in the form of an extra wicket-keeper, probably Dinesh Kaarthick, could make the grade.

The tour being to South Africa, not exactly spin-friendly, it is probable that India will take just two specialist spinners in Harbhajan Singh and, if the selectors want him (as they should) for the World Cup, Anil Kumble. India have a definite back-up in Virender Sehwag and if Dinesh Mongia bowls like he did in the Champions Trophy game against Australia, he is a definite asset.

While the two spinners should really pick themselves, there is bound to be a fair amount of discussion over at least two batting slots of seven probable specialist ones. With

Yuvraj Singh probably out (though there was no update on his injury on Sunday after his flight from Chandigarh, due to land in Mumbai at 6:55pm, was delayed till 9pm), five batsmen still should be certainties — Rahul Dravid, Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Kaif and Mongia.

Whether Suresh Raina will make the grade is the big question though he could well do so, especially this close to the World Cup. Then of course, the team management believes he has tremendous potential, glimpses of which he has shown in the past but the balance between potential and performance will be the moot point. There is bound to be a discussion on Raina.

There are a couple of contenders for one last slot, or maybe two.

While a couple of selectors believe VVS Laxman should be discussed to shore up the experience, Gautam Gambhir's good run this season should make him almost a certainty — it would be strange if the southpaw was not there. He had a 110 and 75 in the Challenger Trophy, an unbeaten 64 in the Irani, 70 in the first innings of the ongoing Duleep game and is batting on 33 in the second innings.

Robin Uthappa, who had a 92 in the Challengers and again, has shown lots of promise, is another possibility as a third opener (but Gambhir's claim at this point is much better) while Tamil Nadu's Subramanian Badrinath has also been among the runs. At the moment, the field is pretty open.

It could get pretty interesting with the seamers, with the selectors likely to opt for five. While Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan and S Sreesanth should be a cinch, Zaheer Khan should be back. If Zaheer takes one slot, then the fifth could be between VRV Singh (who has height and express pace) and RP Singh.

If Agarkar is likely to be fit by then though, he will be there. It should be a fascinating meeting.

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