India v New Zealand, 1st Test October 4, 2003

Chopra and Yuvraj find favour with the selectors

India's selection committee, headed by a new chairman, sprung a couple of surprises when they named a squad for the first Test against New Zealand, which starts at Ahmedabad on October 8. Akash Chopra and Sairaj Bahutule were surprising inclusions, while Sanjay Bangar and Ajit Agarkar were prominent among those that missed out.

Under Syed Kirmani's stewardship, the committee have also given opportunities to Yuvraj Singh, L Balaji and Aavishkar Salvi. Yuvraj is unlikely to play, but the five wise men appear to have decided to give him a feel of the big time before the tour of Australia later this year. Salvi and Balaji benefit from Ashish Nehra's injury, and the unavailability of Javagal Srinath.

Chopra's selection - ahead of Sadagoppan Ramesh, Shiv Sundar Das, Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir and Deep Dasgupta - will prompt many a debate over the coming week, especially given the fluency with which Ramesh made a century at Rajkot. The man Chopra replaces, Bangar, is also entitled to a few complaints, having done little wrong in his time with the squad.

Parthiv Patel has been given the chance to prove his batting mettle on the more placid tracks at home, while Agarkar must wonder just what he has to do to get a look in. No such complaints for men like Murali Kartik and Gambhir, who blew their chances with some indifferent recent performances.

If India go into the game with six batsmen, a keeper and four bowlers - as they're expected to - Yuvraj, Balaji and Bahutule are likely to be the ones relegated to drinks duties. Mind you, the selectors could spring yet another surprise, and open with Yuvraj and Virender Sehwag, just to show the New Zealanders, and Martin Crowe - who once opened the bowling with Dipak Patel - that they don't have a patent on the bizarre.

Squad Virender Sehwag, Akash Chopra, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly (capt), VVS Laxman, Parthiv Patel (wk), Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Aavishkar Salvi, L Balaji, Yuvraj Singh, Sairaj Bahutule.

Wisden Comment