Choice right, will India break overseas jinx?

Written by: D Ram Raj
Published: Friday, May 18, 2001, 15:00 [IST]
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Bangalore: The selection of the Indian cricket team - for the two-Test away series against Zimbabwe - for once appeared to be without acrimony. The five Zonal selectors - Chandu Borde (West and Selection Committee Chairman), T A Sekar (South), Madan Lal (North), Ashok Malhotra (East) and Sanjay Jadgale (Central) - seemed to share a rare bonhomie.

The selectors first went around the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) National Cricket Academy (NCA) and then commenced their deliberations with Selection Committee Convenor as well as BCCI Secretary J Y Lele, coach John Wright and skipper Saurav Ganguly in attendance.

The meeting, according to Borde, lasted one hour and there was a general feeling of happiness among all concerned. The 15-member "balanced" team, comprising seven batsmen, seven bowlers and one wicket-keeper too seems to have been picked on a very logical basis for once.

While Borde had indicated during the selection of the 26 probables on April 22 at Baroda that players outside the camp could also be considered, the selectors seemed to have adopted the "safe way" of sticking to the short list on hand. While the role of the coach in selection matters has been debated, John Wright appears to have influenced the selectors in this instance on basing their conclusions on logic rather than on an other whim.

Wright arrived for the meeting on the dot at 14:30 hours and was closeted with the selectors during the entire meeting with captain Saurav Ganguly. The idea of consensus too seems to have prevailed as the deliberations, according to reliable BCCI sources, began the day before and continued before the actual meeting took place.

The fact that the team has been chosen considering the home (Zimbabwe) conditions proves that the selectors have for once gone into the brass tacks of the tour needs. Asked about the pitches, Borde nostalgically recalled, "I played in Zimbabwe many years ago. The pitches there are known to seam and hence we have packed the side with five seamers."

But, the point of contention is the omission of a genuine left-hand spinner. In including leg spinner Sairaj Bahutule, the selectors opted out Rahul Sanghvi. The only time Borde appeared to have been caught on a sticky wicket was when he was asked why medium pacer Dodda Ganesh - the highest wicket taker in the last domestic season - was not considered.

Borde evaded the question with a not too convincing answer and fortunately was not grilled too long on the topic. The selectors chose the best from the available - though whether the best (the 26 probables) were really the best is another debatable point.

There was an air of professionalism at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium with the second batch of NCA trainees undergoing their stint under new director Balwinder Singh Sandhu. The presence of the Indian team lent the NCA trainees a motivating factor as they could mingle with the Indian Test stars. They also knew what is in store for them if they performed creditably in the NCA.

The youngsters got useful tips from Sachin Tendulkar, who was listened too with total awe. John Wright and physio Andrew Leipus put the Indians through a drill, which they would not have been too familiar with in earlier camps. The emphasis - as suggested by NCA consultant and former Aussie star Rodney Marsh - was on physical fitness.

The six-day camp was in a true sense a conditioning camp with the players going through a monitored regimen of physical training and cricketing exercises at the Chinnaswamy Stadium as well as by the pool side of the five-star hotel where they were staying.

The training and the trend of selection have gone in the right direction so far and one hopes the Indian players will shape up well to achieve the most sought after away series victory.

wishes the Indian's all the best in the two-Test series.

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