Focus on Ganguly as selectors meet tomorrow

Published: Friday, December 23, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:In the backdrop of the uproar over Sourav Ganguly's exclusion from the Test squad, the national selectors would grapple with the tricky issue of whether to recall the deposed captain when they meet to pick the squad for the upcoming tour of Pakistan.

The omission of Ganguly from the third and final Test against Sri Lanka at Ahmedabad, that concluded yesterday with a 259-run win for the home team, has led to a furore with several political figures and former cricketers jumping on the bandwagon in support of the axed player.

The controversy is yet to die down and another one is round the corner if the selectors ignore the Bengal left hander for the three-Test series which precedes the One-day contest.

The five wise men of Indian cricket, with former stumper Kiran More at the helm, are bound to face some flak from the public, with the clamour expected to be louder if Ganguly is excluded again.

Either way, if they do indeed pick Ganguly, who was dropped from the squad for Ahmedabad after playing in the first two Tests against Sri Lanka, the query would be: why was he dropped then in the first place and why is he being included now without having played in the intervening period in domestic cricket.

It was also not certain on the eve of perhaps the most eagerly awaited cricket selection commitee meeting in recent times whether the squad would have 15 or 16 players.

"The normal practice is to select a 15-member squad. If the selectors decide to have an additional member, then the approval of the BCCI is needed," BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah told.

Coach Greg Chappell and captain Rahul Dravid would also be giving their inputs to the selectors.

There is no doubt the selectors are under intense pressure to pick the former captain, who has even had a lengthy one-on-one chat with BCCI Chief Sharad Pawar in New Delhi, even as the Indian team was in the thick of the Test match at Ahmedabad.

Would the selectors show a change of heart and thinking and choose Ganguly or would they decide to stick to their earlier decision, is a matter of conjecture.

In all the din over Ganguly's exclusion, the continued absence of experienced left-arm pace bowler Zaheer Khan who last played in Zimbabwe, has been largely pushed to the background.

Zaheer was ignored for the Test and One-day series against Lanka and the five-match limited over series against South Africa that was sandwiched in between.

Going by what Chappell said at a press conference in Ahmedabad that Zaheer has been bowling well, there is a distinct likelihood of the Baroda pacer's recall to pep up the pace attack which is expected to include the three men who did duty in the ODI and Test series against Lanka -- Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar and Rudra Pratap Singh.

Young Punjab paceman Vikram Raj Vir Singh, who was controversially included during the ODI series against Lanka by the selectors without being informed that he was unfit atthat time, is another option.

But he is yet to play in a competitive tie after his injury as per the BCCI guidelines for selection of players coming back from injury.

Most other members of the squad pick themselves with one of the important decisions needed to be taken pertaining to the second wicket-keeper.

Discarded Gujarat 'keeper Parthiv Patel was the lone stumper on India's previous visit in 2004.

The squad is expected to have three openers - Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir - who had a miserable outing in the Tests against Lanka - and the recalled Mumbai batsman Wasim Jaffer.

Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh are certainties for the middle order while Mahendra Singh Dhoni would be chosen as the first stumper.

Seven more slots are left in such a scenario, assuming it is a 15-member team.

With four pacers and two spinners - Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh - being near-certainties, the choice before the selectors would be to pick an extra stumper, a middleorder batsman or another slow bowler to fill in the last spot.

If the selectors opt for an additional 16th player for the tour, they would have more options to choose him from and the list includes Ganguly.

Shah, the convener of the meeting, also informed that the itinerary of the tour would also be announced tomorrow.

A five-member Indian delegation, including BCCI's Executive Secretary In-charge and last tour's manager Ratnakar Shetty, would leave for Pakistan tomorrow to inspect the venues, according to Board sources.

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