Dinesh Karthik in, Parthiv Patel out
Dinesh Karthik, the young wicketkeeper from Tamil Nadu, has been selected in the 15-man Indian squad for the Videocon Cup in Holland, and the NatWest Challenge and ICC Champions Trophy in England. Zaheer Khan and Parthiv Patel have been omitted, while Rohan Gavaskar and Ajit Agarkar have been recalled, although Gavaskar will miss out on the Champions Trophy, which only allows a 14-man squad.
Both Gavaskar and Agarkar were left out of the squad for the Asia Cup, but the lack of back-up for the injured VVS Laxman cost India dear in that tournament. The selected squad contains eight specialist batsmen, four medium-pacers, two spinners and a specialist wicketkeeper in Karthik.
Karthik impressed with his fine showing in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh earlier this year, most notably with 70 off just 39 balls against Sri Lanka, in a match that India had to win to qualify for the semi-final. He carried on his fine form, cracking crucial hundreds in the semi-final and final of the Ranji Trophy. On the current India A tour of Zimbabwe, Karthik made good use of limited opportunities, with scores of 96 and 52 in the two four-day games he played.
SK Nair, the secretary of the Indian board, clarified that Zaheer was excluded because of injury. "Zaheer is not fully fit," he told Wisden Cricinfo. "We have got the physio's report and there seems to be a recurrence of injury. Looking at the long-term goals, we felt that it was best to rest him."
Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly (capt), Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Ajit Agarkar, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan, Rohan Gavaskar (not for Champions Trophy).
Analysis by Amit Varma
The selectors have done the right thing in selecting Dinesh Karthik in the Indian squad for the three one-day tournaments that lie ahead. It has been evident for a while that the team management is not willing to play a wicketkeeper who cannot bat well; and in one-dayers, Parthiv Patel has not been up to that task. An alternative had to be found to the stopgap arrangement of asking Rahul Dravid to keep wicket, and Karthik, whose batting has drawn much praise on the domestic circuit, deserved to be given a chance.
With Zaheer Khan injured, it was inevitable that Ajit Agarkar, who took a five-for in a recent County Championship match for Middlesex, would take his place. India were able to select a squad of 15 for the first two of these tournaments, as opposed to the 14 allowed in the Asia Cup, and Hemang Badani and Rohan Gavaskar were the contenders for that extra spot. It was a borderline decision, but Badani has already had a long run in the national squad, and Gavaskar deserves to be granted a longer stint in India colours to prove his worth.
However, the squad for the Champions Trophy has the same problem as the one for the Asia Cup did - there is no back-up batsman in it, as Gavaskar will have to return after the NatWest Challenge. If any of the seven specialist batsmen get injured, as VVS Laxman did during the Asia Cup, India will be a batsman short. That may not be a problem if Karthik measures up - but if he doesn't, India will be in trouble.
Amit Varma is managing editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India. He writes the blog, 23 yards, for this site.