November 14, 2000

Dahiya and Sharandeep in: India team for Delhi Test announced

When the diminutive Jaywant Lele walks into the press box and announces a team there are always a few murmurs and snickers among scribes. Today, he announced that the selectors have decided to replace Venkatesh Prasad with Sharandeep Singh and Saba Karim with Vijay Dahiya for the first Test against Zimbabwe to be played in Delhi from the 18th. Otherwise, the team that won the one-off Test against Bangladesh remains unchanged.

Sharandeep Singh revelled in a breed of ordinary offspin that is found in most club teams in the match against the touring Zimbabweans at Indore. After having sufficient time to set into a good rhythm, he managed to return to the pavilion without picking a single wicket despite sending down 42 overs. Yet, the selectors have suddenly seen potential in him. In their defense, Lele said, "the captain wanted an offspinner because the Zimbabweans have many left handers in their team." It must be recalled that the same Sourav Ganguly asked for an offspinner before the tri-series in Sharjah. He was denied one despite the fact that both opponents - Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka had left handers in their batting lineups.

And as has been the case countless times in the past, Venkatesh Prasad is the man who loses his place. The Karnataka mediumpacer has not been in the best of form lately, but certainly does not deserve to be dropped. Unlucky is the first word that comes to mind. Then again, Sharandeep Singh was picked on merit, and luck had no role to play, one is informed. There is however a curious connection between Karnataka mediumpacers and off spinners. One remembers the failed experiment called project Noel David. Even the then skipper Sachin Tendulkar had never heard of this cricketer. On that occasion he was sent as a replacement for the injured Javagal Srinath.

Vijay Dahiya's inclusion hardly comes as a surprise. Although the captain favoured his state stumper Saba Karim, his performance in Dhaka left little doubt in people's minds. Karim did not glove the ball cleanly, and did little of note with the bat. Dahiya will rejoice at the end of the day's play against Zimbabwe for his selection must be seen as a step in the right direction. If Ajay Ratra, the long term solution, is not yet ready to don the gloves, Indian cricket is in safer hands with Dahiya behind the stumps rather than Karim.

One man who had serious hopes of selection and has been ignored is Tamil Nadu offspinner Aashish Kapoor. Bowling with purpose at the Nahar Singh Stadium against the visitors, one can visualise the drop in his shoulders when the news reaches him. Lele said Kapoor was discussed as was Harbhajan Singh before the decision to pick Sharandeep was made.

John Wright, newly appointed coach of the Indian team has arrived in India, added Lele. He will join the team day after tomorrow when they assemble at Delhi.

The team: SC Ganguly(captain), S Ramesh, SS Das, SR Tendulkar, R Dravid, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, V Dahiya (wicket-keeper), AB Agarkar, J Srinath, Z Khan, Sharandeep Singh, SB Joshi and M Kartik