Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Selection games for Johannesburg Test

By John Cheeran
Interesting stuff this is.
I'm being told that skipper Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chapell are unlikely to include Irfan Pathan in the XI for the first Test in Johannesburg.
The reason is Pathan, the bowler, is being walloped all around the park. Fast bowlers Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth and VRV Singh, along with leg-spinner Anil Kumble, are India's likely bowlers in Johannesburg.
Traditionally, away from home, India prefer to beef up its batting with seven batsmen. So that does not leave space for a fifth bowler and hence Pathan is out of the scheme.
Well, Pathan's form a bowler has dipped alarmingly, but the youngster has done impressively with the bat on the tour. In fact Pathan is the only Indian batsman to have struck a century (unbeaten knocks of 111 and 40 against the Rest of South Africa in Potchefstroom) on the tour so far. Pathan had in fact saved his skin by batting sensibly in the last one-dayer too.
At a time the experienced and established worthies have failed on a grand scale, why not play Pathan purely as batsman?
That's what I would call brave cricket, something South Africa has been pioneering under the leadership of Graeme Smith. But the hard blows of the recent times have crushed the adventurous spirit of both Dravid and Chappell. If they include Pathan and leave out a batsman from the edgy list of Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly, I'm sure, hell would break loose on television channels and blood will seep out from the column inches of newspapers in India.
Let me try to count the Indian XI for Johannesburg.
Since Dilip Vengsarkar, chairman of the National selection committee, has declared that a settled pair of openers should open the Indian innings, that opens the doors for Jaffer and Sehwag.
You cannot drop Sachin Tendulkar because he is the master blaster and no one knows when the master decides to be back in form.
You have to play VVS Laxman for he is on a rescue mission and he is the future of Indian cricket what with being the vice captain of the side.
May be since Rahul Dravid, being the captain, you cannot drop him too. And who can drop Sourav Ganguly now after his epoch-making comeback innings of 83 against the Rest of South Africa? Unless Dravid decides to keep wickets or Ganguly offers to return the favour to Dravid by keeping wickets, Mahendra Singh Dhoni should play.
So the top part of the Johannesburg XI reads...Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Now only four spots remain, for bowlers, to be picked by Kumble, Zaheer, Sreesanth and VRV Singh.
So in an effort to bolster its batting, India will have to leave out its most improved batsman on the tour from the first Test team.
What, then, would be the price Indian cricket paying for such folly?
Defeat or disaster?
Old tales from Brisbane and Bloemfontaine will not bring comfort to the Indian camp.

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