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'India made a mistake by dropping Laxman'

India have also taken a risk by choosing Jaffer above Gambhir against South Africa, writes Barry Richards.

india Updated: Nov 22, 2006 12:44 IST

The rain gods have certainly taken a liking for the Indians. After the disappointment of an abandoned game at Johannesburg both teams flew to Durban only to find more of the same. Kingsmead is a ground that drains very well, but the bad news is that there are forecasts for thunderstorms.

All this rain has resulted in the Indians losing out on a lot of practice as well. Considering that more than half the side is playing in South Africa for the first time, this is certainly bad news.

Some of these youngsters will be under tremendous pressure if two straight games are rained out because they will be under great pressure in a three-game series because it affords no chance to come from behind.

That is not to say that the Indians have no promise. The pace attack has a lot of promise and the batting is a good blend of youth and experience. It was a huge call to retain Suresh Raina, and the focus will be well and truly on him when the cricket begins.

That was not the only big call that the selectors made. They also have taken a risk by choosing Wasim Jaffer above Gautam Gambhir, especially since the latter has a more attacking style and has even scored a century in one-dayers.

I am happy that the youngsters have someone like Sachin Tendulkar in the side. He was fielding in the slips during the Champions Trophy, and I feel that will increase his involvement in the game.

The Indians will need his advice right through this series, and even the bowlers will benefit if he gives them inputs from the slips. For me, the biggest error is not having VVS Laxman in the side. True, he struggles on the field and is not as agile as he used to be a few years ago.

However, he has a great record against good teams — his great knocks are against Australia and not against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe — and his success in Australia was proof that he would do well in South African conditions.

The thinktank might have been worried by the prospect of having to hide him on the fielding, but that is not a good enough reason to keep out a batsman of his class. I don’t know if there are any behind-the-scenes reasons for Laxman’s continued omission, because on cricketing merit I would pick him every time.

Coming back to tomorrow’s game, if it takes place, the rain will ensure plenty of assistance for the pacers. I don’t see India playing two spinners at Kingsmead so Anil Kumble might have to miss this one. The South Africans will certainly prefer an all-pace attack.

First Published: Nov 22, 2006 12:44 IST