India v South Africa, 2nd Test, Kolkata February 10, 2010

Laxman fit for second Test - Srikkanth

Cricinfo staff

Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of India's selection committee, has said VVS Laxman will definitely play in the second Test against South Africa in Kolkata starting Sunday. He also said he was willing to take the blame for the mess involving the selection of India's middle-order but it was the result of a "freakish" incident.

"Laxman is going to be back in the Kolkata Test match," Srikkanth told CNN-IBN. "He has said he is 100% fit. [His] capability will bolster the Indian batting." Laxman was one of the three first-choice middle-order batsmen who missed the first Test, which India lost by an innings and six runs.

Srikkanth and his panel are under fire for not picking a reserve batsman in the original squad for the first Test, defeat in which has left India needing a win at the Eden Gardens to retain their No. 1 ranking. Rohit Sharma, who was part of a Board President's XI team that played a warm-up match against South Africa, was included in the national squad a day before the first Test but he too injured himself minutes before the start, forcing India to hand reserve wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha a debut as a specialist batsman.

The chief selector said he was willing to take the blame for picking a player who was not fully fit (VVS Laxman) but insisted there would have been no controversy had it not been for the unanticipated last-minute injury to Rohit. "Whatever happened on the morning of the Test match was absolutely unfortunate and freakish," he said. "That's what they have in this contract called 'force majeure situations'. Imagine if a player is unfit just 15 minutes before the toss and that too a standby player - Rohit Sharma wasn't even in the original 15 - just before the toss, I don't think anybody can be blamed for it."

Saha was dismissed for a duck in the first innings and made a dogged 36 the second time round, but has been left out of the squad for the second Test, with Dinesh Karthik returning after two big hundreds in the Duleep Trophy final. "They all [critics] feel that Wriddhiman Saha is not a genuine batsman but a wicketkeeper who can bat. But in all fairness, Saha proved that he can bat pretty decently."

The original pool for the first Test had included four fast bowlers, though India rarely pick more than two quicks in home matches. "Generally we have an opener, a middle order batsman, a spinner and a seamer in the reserves," Srikkanth said. "But in this Test match alone we thought we would encourage two more fast bowlers. But to our bad luck, you had one batsman walking out."