Monday, May 28, 2007

Will they? Won’t they? Should they?

Now that the Bangladesh tour is done and dusted, India face up to the challenge of the tour of England. There is bound to be a lot of speculation on the team selection, and whether the ones that finally get selected deserved to be in or not. Let me make my task easier, and ponder over some of the doubtful starters.

The captain of my not-bound-for-England team is VVS Laxman. No, let me confess, I am a big fan of Laxman. But while he has prospered on the bouncy pitches of Australia and the predictable ones of India, I am not sure the juicy English wickets are quite his cup of tea. Moreover, he has been a bit rusty for want of match practice for a few months now. Add to this the fact that he is bound to be a backup for the untouchable trio of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly – which may not make him too comfortable. And his fielding outside the slip cordon, er, what fielding?

For the first time in a really long while (when did it happen last?), India will probably carry two wicketkeepers. While I am not arguing the merits of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik, I would not carry Dhoni as the first ‘keeper. Not in England, surely. I would carry him though, but as a second wicketkeeper for the tests. His batting, of course, is never going to stand up to count in English conditions, except perhaps on the Oval shirtfront towards the end of the tour. Of course, Dhoni will be the first choice for the one-day internationals. And if I get Karthik to keep wickets, I will not open the batting with him. No sir, I would recall a certain Virender Sehwag – he of the slam-bang-sorry-ma’am school of batting. Harmy’s deliveries need to be directed, to the boundary, and who better than Sehwag to do that?

Munaf Patel is another person I’d prefer to give a rest. With his injury problems, his non-existent fielding and batting, and his much-reduced pace, his accuracy and line-and-length stuff is unlikely to count for much. And if he is injured, he can’t carry too heavy a drinks crate either, can he?

It may seem like stating the obvious, but Ajit Agarkar is another who should not make the cut. Agarkar seems to be the never-forgotten man of Indian cricket, and some wise man may remember his century at Lord’s (in a lost cause, in case you forget) and consider taking him as a specialist all-rounder.

They are unlikely to select him, but I do hope the selectors do not consider Robin Uthappa for the test matches. With a technique like his, being blooded in English conditions is a free ride to retirement.

Notwithstanding his (supposedly) useful batting, flashy sunglasses, and genuine flight, Ramesh Powar is not a man for tests in England. He is so slow in the air, the batsman can play two shots to his quicker one.

So which of these will make it? And who will be the other surprises in the squad? We’ll know soon. In Indian cricket, the selection phase is usually as entertaining as the real game; some times even more.

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