More impressed with India's fast-bowling pool
After India had coasted to a nine-wicket triumph on the back of some superb bowling from Anil Kumble and Munaf Patel, the selection committee were in a predictably conservative mood, announcing an unchanged squad for the Mumbai Test. Kiran More, who addressed the post-selection press conference, could be forgiven a satisfied smile or two as he held forth on Munaf, Piyush Chawla and the possibility of India sticking to the five-bowler strategy in the final game.
When asked if the committee was pleased at the gamble on Munaf paying off, More said: "He's an outstanding cricketer, who's picked up 88 first-class wickets in the last couple of seasons. We just felt that he needed more match practice. I know the area that he comes from [Ikhar], close to Bharuch. He always had the pace, but didn't have a second option. Now he knows which areas to bowl, and he bowls yorkers and inswingers. There's been a great improvement in his bowling."
Munaf had his opportunity after S Sreesanth was ruled out due to fever, and More admitted that the team had a few worries in the pace department, with RP Singh also having impressed on the tour of Pakistan. "We look for the guys who are in the best form," said More. "Sree had a fever before this game, and we couldn't risk him breaking down, so that gave a chance to Munaf. We want the best guys playing in the team. RP bowled very well in Pakistan, and a time will come when he plays too. We need six to eight fast bowlers so that there's always back-up."
More was also pleased with Chawla's first outing, despite being restricted to just 14.1 overs and the wicket of Andrew Flintoff. "He's taken 40 wickets this season and we think he's ready. He just didn't get enough spells in this game. The seniors [Kumble and Harbhajan] bowled magnificently, but we were very impressed with Piyush. If we hadn't lost two days to rain, he would have had more chances to bowl."
More, however, was less forthcoming on the five-bowler theory. "When we play five, it gives the captain options, and gives us more chances of winning," he said. "But it's not necessary that we will do it for every Test. We'll look at the pitch and decide."
He also brushed aside talk that the spin cupboard was as bare as the pace one appears full. "We did discuss Ramesh Powar. Harbhajan is there too. He bowled very well in this match. There is also Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra. When they're given chances at this level, we'll know where they stand."
Both Vikram Raj Vir Singh, the Punjab pace bowler, and Abid Nabi, from Kashmir, had bowled in the Indian nets here, and More emphasised the need to groom talent for the future. "VRV is a local and we called him for nets," he said. "He looked in excellent shape. We also wanted to see Nabi. I had never seen him before, though some of the other selectors had. We wanted to assess his fitness and give him the guidance of the support staff. It's important that we groom young prospects."
Squad - Rahul Dravid (capt), Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Rudra Pratap Singh, Piyush Chawla
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo