Ganguly's fate lies in hands of selectors

Published: Tuesday, September 30, 2008, 19:13 [IST]
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Mumbai:  The new selection committee, headed by Krishnamachari Srikkanth has a tough task at hand when they meet here tomorrow to select the team for the first two Tests against Australia and take a decision on the 'fab four'.

At the moment it looks like three of the fab four will make it to the 14-member squad for the first two Tests, but there is heavy speculation on whether southpaw Sourav Ganguly makes the squad or not.

Ganguly has already made it clear that he would quit international cricket if he is left out of the first two Tests.

The former Indian captain was the only one who was left out of the Irani Cup tie and though Rahul Dravid got a fifty in that match, V V S Laxman failed to impress in the two innings that he played, while Sachin Tendulkar opted out due to an elbow injury.

It remains to be seen whether the new 'professional' selection committee does take a call on the ageing seniors, who have not been in the best of form for some time now.

There is immense pressure and scrutiny on the five wise men less than a week after being appointed on India's first fully paid selectors' panel at the BCCI's 79th AGM here.

An axe on Ganguly, who was a total flop mustering less than 100 runs in the last Test series in Sri Lanka, would send a strong message across to the other three star batsmen - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman - to perform or perish.

Will Srikkanth and co-selectors Yashpal Sharma, Narendra Hirwani, Surendra Bhave and Raja Venkat pull the rug on the career of Ganguly is the big question ahead of one of the most interesting selection panel meetings.

The 36-year-old Bengal stalwart, who staged a spectacular entry into the Tests with a ton on debut at Lord's in 1996, made a storming come back in the five-day game in South Africa in 2006 after losing his place earlier that year.

The classy left-hander amassed over 1100 runs with 239 being his career-best score that came against Pakistan in Bangalore in 2007, at a fantastic average of 61.44 last year which compares very favourably with his career average of 41.74 in 109 Tests.

Ganguly has been unable to maintain that high in the current year though he has come up with important knocks like 87, which he made against the visiting South Africans at Kanpur that helped India level the three-Test rubber in April. What could also go against Ganguly, who is among the few Indians who have played in over 100 Tests, is his fitness level and generally poor record against the World's Best team, especially at home where he averages only 27.35 in nine matches with a best innings of 66.

In case Ganguly is dropped, it would open the way for younger players like Yuvraj Singh, Mohd Kaif, S Badrinath and Rohit Sharma to be included into the test side.

However, it remains to be seen whether the selectors opt for a third opener as back-up in case either Virender Sehwag or Gautam Gambhir are unable to take the field for some reason.

With the other middle-order spots more or less decided and the return of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who opted out of the Test series in Lanka to rest, shoring up the batting line, the selectors would be left with the task of finalising the bowling combination.

Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma are certainties to open the bowling line. Munaf Patel showed good form in the Irani tie and is the front runner for the third seamer's spot ahead of someone like R P Singh.

Anil Kumble, expected to be named as captain, and Harbhajan Singh are sure to take the two spin bowlers' places with an additional spinner expected to be thrown in as back-up.

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