Little to find fault under circumstances

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Thursday, September 21, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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Marginal preferences apart, the 14-member squad picked for the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Knock Out tournament, to be held at Nairobi (Oct 3 to 15), has panned out to general expectations.

With the sidelining of no less than four key players, Mohammed Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, Nayan Mongia and Nikhil Chopra, from the list of probables itself, unadmittedly as a fall-out of the betting and match-fixing controversy, opportunities had presented itself for some of the youngsters to get their big break.

Fortunate amongst these have been Punjab all-rounder Youvraj Singh, son of former international and all-rounder Yograj Singh, Delhi wicket-keeper Vijay Dahiya, and left-arm medium-pacer from Baroda Zaheer Khan.

It was a toss-up between the two all-rounders from Punjab and colleagues in the Indian under-19 World Cup winning team, Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Youvraj Singh. The latter got the final nod after a lively debate for a good part of two hours, after which the 14-member squad was announced.

"Between the two, Youvraj Singh was preferred because he is a more attacking player of the two," chairman of the selection committee Chandu Borde said. Although he did not quite emphasise the fact, what tilted the scales in favour of Youvraj was his superior fielding ability.

Vijay Dahiya, however, must consider himself lucky that he was picked in preference to Reuben Paul of Tamil Nadu. Both are 26 and both hard-hitting batsmen. There is no guarantee, however, that Dahiya will automatically make the final playing 11. The team's brains trust might opt for Rahul Dravid, who has been named vice-captain, to keep wickets.

This may be done so as not to upset the balance of the team and make way for including an extra batsman or an all-rounder.

It is almost after two years since Mumbai left-hander and Sachin Tendulkar's school chum, Vinod Kambli returns to the Indian squad. With the likes of Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja out of the way, the selectors did not have to go through any great mental exercise to weigh Kambli's credentials.

It may be recalled that when Kambli was not selected for the Asia Cup at Dhaka last time, Borde had said that the left-handed batsman was more suited for Test cricket than the shorter version of the game. The present decision is an about-turn done by the selectors.

Another one to make a comeback is Karnataka medium-pacer Venkatesh Prasad. The selectors may be said to have made good a previous injustice done to this hard-working bowler, who did not at all have a bad record in limited-overs cricket.

Supporting Prasad will be injury-prone Ajit Agarkar and newcomer, Baroda left-arm medium-pacer Zaheer Khan, who the selectors found to be amongst the most impressive of his lot that included Debashish Mohanty, and Amit Bhandari.

Tamil Nadu left-handed opener Sridharan Sriram also must be considered fortunate in that he edged out compatriot Sadagoppan Ramesh. He and Hemang Badani, also of Tamil Nadu, may, perhaps end up to be supernumerary members of the team and that they may find the opportunity to get a look-in somewhat rare.

Remember, the ICC tourney, a mini version of World Cup, is a straight knock out contest and as such there is no scope whatsoever to experiment. One defeat and the team is out. One will, therefore not be surprised if India pack their playing 11 with as many batsmen as they can.

In such a scheme of things, all-rounder Youvraj Singh may, perhaps, have an important role to play. His inclusion in the playing 11 might force the team management to shove the extra responsibility of keeping wickets on the shoulders of Rahul Dravid, so as not to upset the balance of the team.

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