Challenger trophy a chance for second rung player

Published: Sunday, October 9, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Mohali:India's second rung players will have a chance to display their talent in front of national coach Greg Chappell but the focus would nevertheless be on leading batsman Sachin Tendulkar who attempts a comeback from an elbow injury in the NKP Salve Challenger Series limited overs cricket tournament beginning here tomorrow.

Returning to action after a five-month layoff following a surgery to treat his tennis elbow, Tendulkar's aim when he takes guard would be to assess how his left arm fares againstthe country's leading quick bowlers before he takes a final decision on his availability for the upcoming ODI series at home against Sri Lanka starting later this month.

But given that he has been the binding force in the Indian team during its period of inner turmoil in the past one year or so, the record-breaking batsman from Mumbai may well be the first name the national selectors write down when they pick the squad at the end of the series.

That he rushed to join the team in the third Test against Australia at Nagpur in 2004 should tell more about the team's dependence on him than his own judgment on his elbow injury.

There might be a coincidence with the situation then and that is now. As Tendulkar comes in, skipper Sourav Ganguly walks out.

Ganguly pulling out of the team on the morning of the match did not go down well with his teammates then. His withdrawal this time, though armed with a doctor's certificate, too comes at the last minute, that too after he had made himself available for the Series instead of attending the ICC Captain's Conference in Australia.

Ganguly's absence, following an advice of 10-days' rest, has put the selectors in a piquant situation since they were scheduled to pick the captain first on October 13, the day ofthe final, before choosing the squad the next day.

Chappell, on the other hand, would be hoping the pitch at the PCA Stadium throws up decent cricket for him to make a genuine assessment of the players on view.

The former Australian captain was there at the Irani Cup but the cricket on display was below par. As much one would blame the players, including the likes of Y Venugopala Rao and Suresh Raina, for failing to put up their best in front of the legend, some portion of the blame could be laid at the uneven track of the Karnail Singh Stadium.

But one could expect the PCA, who have gone a great distance to market the event, to roll out a true cricket pitch as they have done over the years.

There is also the moot point of V V S Laxman being made the captain of the India 'A' team. It begs an answer from the selectors as to where the Hyderabadi stands vis a vis hisfitting into the one-day team.

The stylish batsman was omitted for the 2003 World Cup only to be included immediately after that. And not long after he scored four centuries in the tri-series on the tour of Australia the next season, he was shown the door again.

Now, when Chappell is talking about preparing for the 2007 World Cup, Laxman finds himself playing an important role all over again.

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