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Old guards up for new challenges

Blues look to be over for the Indian seniors in the run-up to the ICC Cup, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Oct 06, 2006 13:39 IST
Atul Sondhi
Atul Sondhi

Challengers were vanquished and Champions have been resurrected again.

Indian blues may not have won the Challenger tournament thanks to rains, but they have shown they are in great form and ready to reverse the recent spell of uncertainty.

Doubts must pave way for new Renaissance and India will be hoping for a great result when they take on England in their first match in less than two weeks time.

The best result for India from the matches this week has been that its opening pair may have looked settled and confirmed its preparedness for the battles ahead. When Vengsarkar had commented that India needed Sehwag as opener, he was merely giving some glimpses of his cricketing brain.

And this tournament has proved that when Sehwag plays with uncluttered mind, which comes with him opening the batting, he can be good enough to bludgeon any opposition into submission. Sehwag's knock on the final day saw plenty of fireworks, something that makes him a batsman that he is.

On the positive side, once again a healthy competition is emerging for the opening slot with Gautam Gambhir too coming up with some good scores. That gives selectors an option post-Challenger in case of emergency, or some unforeseen dip in form.

Openers in Challenger

   Mts Inns NO Runs Hs Avg SR 100 50
 SR Tendulkar Ind Blue 3 3 0 200 139 66.66 115.60 1 1
 G Gambhir Ind Red 2 2 0 184 110 92.00 86.79 1 1
 V Sehwag Ind Blue 2 2 1 118 90* 118.00 100.85 0 1
 AR Uthappa Ind Red 3 2 0 102 92 51.00 95.32 0 1
 W Jaffer Ind Green 2 2 0 35 23 17.50 67.30 0 0
 SC Ganguly Ind Green 2 2 0 27 24 13.50 69.23 0 0
 TM Srivastava Ind Blue 1 1 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 0 0

One challenge may have effectively ended for this season. And that has been of Sourav Ganguly. Sreesanth not only sent his stump cartwheeling, but all hopes for an immediate recall.

Of late, number three has been the most ticklish position for the Indian team. But after Irfan's show in this tournament, it looks that it he will continue be roped in at first down in tricky situations.

Performances at Number three

   Mts Inns NO Runs Hs Avg SR 50
 PA Patel Ind Green 2 2 0 112 69 56 94.91 1
 KD Karthick Ind Red 1 1 0 85 85 85 125.00 1
 IK Pathan Ind Blue 2 2 0 76 54 38 92.68 1
 S Badrinath Ind Red 1 1 0 15 15 15 75.00 0
 R Dravid Ind Blue 1 1 0 1 1 1 16.66 0

On Indian pitches, Pathan should be a good weapon to be used sparingly, though on foreign soil his utility will be decided in the November-December tour of South Africa.

The utilization of number three position in this series may have resurrected the hopes of the other two wicket-keeping contenders. After his tremendous show last season, it appeared for a while that Dhoni may have finished the career of other keepers.

But tremendous application shown by Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthick at one-down and some good work behind the stumps may keep Dhoni on toes.

With Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid, Yuvraj and Dhoni a virtual certainly for seven batting slots if India go with four bowlers, there were two positions up for grabs.

Contenders for number five and six slot
(If India play with four bowlers)

   Mts Inns NO Runs Avg
 SK Raina Ind Green 2 2 0 1 0.50
 D Mongia Ind Blue 3 2 0 27 13.50
 M Kaif Ind Green 2 2 0 34 17.00

None of the batsmen fighting for this position performed exceptionally well. So Kaif, also for his utility at number three, and Dinesh Mongia for his tremendous show in DLF Cup final and some skills with the ball may get the nod in the final eleven ahead of Raina.

Among the bowlers, some notable performances came from VRV Singh and Laxmipathi Balaji. But their major problem was economy.

Here Irfan once again showed skill with the ball snaring five victims at an exceptional average of just under thirteen and the best economy among the bowlers. As has been happening quite often, Munaf and Harbhajan once again gave assuring display.

Top bowlers

   Mts Overs Runs Wkts Avg Eco
 VRV Singh Ind Red 3 24.4 154 7 22.00 6.24
 MM Patel Ind Blue 3 15 64 5 12.80 4.26
 IK Pathan Ind Blue 3 17 79 5 15.80 4.64
 L Balaji Ind Green 2 18 130 4 32.50 7.22
 Harbhajan Ind Blue 3 14.4 68 4 17.00 4.63
 M Karthick Ind Red 3 25.2 136 4 34.00 5.36
 Z Khan Ind Red 3 24.3 133 4 33.25 5.42
 RR Powar Ind Red 3 23 125 3 41.66 5.43

After the experience of the West Indies tour, DLF cup and Challenger, the final eleven for the Champions trophy should have Sehwag and Tendulkar as regular Openers. Pathan or Kaif as number three followed by Dravid, Yuvraj, Dinesh Mongia and Dhoni.

The bowling attack must definitely have Pathan for his all round ability, Munaf for his deadly accuracy, and Harbhajan for his proven guile.

And off course Agarkar, as much for his ability with the bat as for his tremendous show in the West Indies in ODIs.

First Published: Oct 05, 2006 12:49 IST