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Of selection and omission

By Faisal Shariff
September 15, 2003 10:10 IST
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The selectors have given Yuvraj Singh a vote of confidence in his quest for a berth in the Indian Test side by including him in the Rest of India squad to play Ranji champions Mumbai in the Irani Trophy match from September 18-22 in Chennai.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India selection committee also sprung a surprise by picking Rohan Gavaskar for the tie, though a selector confirmed that he would not be in the playing eleven unless a regular player is injured.

"It is merely an encouragement for his good showing over the past few months," the selector said.

Rohan GavaskarGavaskar had earlier told rediff.com that he is very keen on giving international cricket a go and happy to perform in either form of the game.

His selection raises the obvious question: did he deserve to be picked ahead of Sridharan Sriram or Hemang Badani, both of whom have done reasonably well in domestic outings?

The selector said "all deserving players will get a chance in the side games against New Zealand".

In fact, it is ironic that the Rest of India team has only two players from the India 'A' side which won the Challenger Trophy on Sunday and three from the India 'B' team which finished second.

Mohammad Kaif is most likely to lead the Board's President XI against the touring Kiwis. Openers Gautam Gambhir and S S Das are also likely to be included in the team for the match.

With tight competition among the openers and fast bowlers, the selectors will have to accommodate and check out those vying for places in those slots in the side games before the two-Test series gets underway from October 8.

New Zealand will play two side games, one from September 26 to 28, against Board President's XI at Visakhapatnam, and the other from October 2 to 4, versus India 'A' at Rajkot.

Pace bowler Amit Bhandari also gets a look in for the Irani Trophy following good performances this season.

Former selector and coach Madan Lal told rediff.com that Bhandari has improved considerably over the last year-and-a-half and said with his ability to move the ball both ways he is a very dangerous bowler.

L Balaji is easily one of the fastest and most consistent bowlers on the domestic circuit and his inclusion was a formality, though how he performs in the Irani Trophy will decide if he takes that final step towards international cricket.

The selection committee will also give Thilak Naidu a chance in the Board President's XI team for the match against the Kiwis and then check out Ajay Ratra in the next tie.

Talking about the selection of Anil Kumble for the Irani Trophy match, the selector said the veteran leggie was picked because there was no alternative.

"In this Challenger did any spinner impress you?" he asked.

"Kumble is still experienced and a better option than Amit Mishra, Sarandeep Singh and Ramesh Powar. Sairaj Bahutule is the only spinner who was impressive. By picking him we will also know if he [Kumble] is still good enough," he added.

For Anil Kumble, this Irani Trophy will decide which path his career will take. With a dismal showing in the Challenger Series, his place is surely under threat.

The selectors, however, continue to ignore opener Sadagoppan Ramesh, who toured Australia in 1999. An injury forced Ramesh out of reckoning after the 2001 Sri Lankan series and in the last two years he has been overlooked even though there is one selector who supports his inclusion wholeheartedly.

Ramesh might get a side game against the Kiwis though the selectors believe that he has not performed well on the domestic circuit in the last two seasons.

The selection committee as of now is only thinking of the New Zealand series and believe that the Australian tour is a long way off. Without any long-term planning, the committee is surely treading on dangerous territory. Half a world away the Australians are waiting to test the Indian batsmen with the short stuff.

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Faisal Shariff

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