Ganguly and Zaheer included in Challenger squads
Kiran More's last day in office ended in an irony of sorts when he, as the chairman of the national selection committee, decided to give Sourav Ganguly a lifeline, choosing him in the India Green team for the forthcoming Challenger Trophy. Along with one-day discards such as VVS Laxman and Zaheer Khan, Ganguly will get a chance to prove his worth in the four-day event at Chennai, starting on October 1.
More's tenure as the chairman coincided with one of the most controversial periods in recent memory and will forever be associated with Ganguly's axing, first from captaincy and then from the team. A storm was created when Ganguly was recalled - in the famous Chennai episode in November 2005 when More termed Ganguly an "allrounder" - dropped again at Ahmebadad and finally given another chance on the Pakistan tour earlier this year. Throughout the phase, in all his press conferences, More steadfastly maintained that Ganguly was always in with a chance and today, as a parting shot, he walked the talk.
Last year's Challenger series at Mohali threw up a number of emerging talents - like Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla and Robin Uthappa - and the selectors, along with Rahul Dravid, decided to throw a few upcoming players into the fray this time as well. Dravid was appointed captain of the India Blue side while Venugopal Rao and Mohammad Kaif will lead the India Red and Green respectively. Under-19 stars like Tanmay Srivastava and Rohit Sharma will get a chance to compete against the cream of India's cricketing talent.
Wasim Jaffer's selection in the India Blue side stumped a few but More clarified that he'd been chosen partly because of Sachin Tendulkar's absence from the series opener. Niranjan Shah, the board secretary, confirmed that Tendulkar had asked for rest and would join the India Blue side from the second game onwards. "Jaffer is a good Test cricketer and can always make a comeback in one-day cricket," said More. "He will be going on the tour to South Africa and this gives him a good opportunity to show his skills in the one-day format."
One of the main attractions of the Challenger Trophy involves unheralded domestic stars being put in the spotlight and this year's event will provide C Raghu, the Karnataka allrounder, Saurasish Lahiri, the Bengal offspinner, S Badrinath, the Tamil Nadu middle-order batsman, and Tejinder Pal Singh, the Railways allrounder, a great opportunity.
Greg Chappell will not be present during the tournament, and Ian Frazer, India's assistant coach, will guide India Blue. Robin Singh, the former Indian allrounder, and Lalchand Rajput, the former Indian opener who's currently with the Under-19 side, will be in charge of India Red and India Green respectively.
The meeting marked the end of term for More and VB Chandreshekhar, the South zone representative. More reflected on the four years as a national selector, terming it an "enjoyable" experience. "We always took collective decisions for the team and I'm thankful for the support we received - from the board, players and media. I played the game with passion and tried to bring that same passion into my selection as well. My colleagues were outstanding. I don't have any regrets."
India Blue - Rahul Dravid (capt), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Wasim Jaffer, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Munaf Patel, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ravindra Jadeja
Coach - Ian Frazer
India Red - Venugopal Rao (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, S Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Tejinder Pal Singh, Dinesh Karthik (wk), VRV Singh, Sreesanth, Ramesh Powar, Zaheer Khan, Murali Kartik, C Raghu
Coach - Robin Singh
India Green - Mohammad Kaif (capt), Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Hemang Badani, Suresh Raina, Tanmay Srivastav, Piyush Chawla, Parthiv Patel, Ashish Nehra, L Balaji, Praveen Kumar, Reetinder Sodhi, Saurasish Lahiri
Coach - Lalchand Rajput
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo