Alarm bells ringing loud

India would ideally want five bowlers for the four Tests against Australia but a perplexing situation has presented itself: the first four choices are injured

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

December 5, 2007

Comments: 46 | Text size: A | A



If Dinesh Karthik fails to perform in Bangalore, he could allow Parthiv Patel an opening into the squad to Australia © AFP
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Amid all the crises surrounding the BCCI and the chairman of selectors, Indian cricket has stumbled across a mess like few others. Injuries to four frontline pace bowlers has meant the selection committee, while meeting in Bangalore to pick the squad for the final Test against Pakistan, chose a left-arm seamer on the comeback trail, a raw fast bowler just five Tests old, and another greenhorn who has featured in a solitary Test.

India's situation is eerily similar to Pakistan's before the Kolkata match. They will be comforted by the knowledge that an attack comprising three spinners could produce a favourable result, on a surface that's expected to be a featherbed, but will fret over their options for the Australian tour.

India would ideally want five bowlers for the four Tests against Australia but a perplexing situation has presented itself: the first four choices are injured. Irfan Pathan, who would have been ideal as the fourth seamer, will now lead the attack in Bangalore, and Ishant Sharma and VRV Singh - both of whom would have been fifth-pacer options - are battling to share the new ball (assuming Sourav Ganguly doesn't do so with three spinners chosen).

What will be on the back of the pace-bowling trio's mind is that a shellacking at the hands of the Pakistan batsmen could see them missing out on Australia. An impressive spell from one could seal the deal but missing out on the game might well be a blessing in disguise. Ajit Agarkar, currently nursing a shoulder niggle, is in a similar predicament: he will miss Mumbai's next Ranji Trophy match but could benefit from others' poor showing. It's no secret that Pankaj Singh and Ranadeb Bose don't stand much of a chance and it's down to Pathan, Sharma, VRV and Agarkar to fight for two slots. They can either demand a spot by bowling well or gain from the another bowler's profligacy.

There is a view that four fast bowlers would do but that would discount the injury-prone nature of the men chosen. The committee will keep in mind that Munaf Patel has gone through just one full Test series without picking up an injury (in West Indies in 2006) and Pathan, if chosen, is more a support bowler than spearhead.

The other big debate that will continue to rage is surrounding the opening slot. It's clear that the fate of three players now hinges on Dinesh Karthik's bat. If Karthik finds some form in Bangalore (even one fifty could do) he can be assured of a ticket to Melbourne. He has the backing of the team management and offers the side the extra option of being a wicketkeeper. Gautam Gambhir will then be expected to fill in as the reserve opener.

In case Karthik fails, three players could be smiling in various corners of India. He would still have a case to make it - after all he was the highest run-getter on India's tour to England - but another poor game for him would strengthen Parthiv Patel's case considerably. Parthiv's selection, though, one where he is likely to be considered as only a specialist wicketkeeper and not as a reserve opener, could lead to one more berth opening up.

It would mean that the selectors may try to fit in two openers to complement Wasim Jaffer at the top of the order. And it could lead to a situation where both Gambhir and Aakash Chopra - Delhi team-mates who will be playing against Maharashtra in Nagothane - make the grade. It's an unlikely scenario, simply because it would again point to just four fast-bowling options, but stranger things have happened in Indian cricket. Just ask the chairman of selectors about how he spent the previous fortnight.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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Posted by qagi on (December 7, 2007, 12:34 GMT)

sohail tanvir should play last match along with rao iftikhar in place of sami So, it won't be a new task for him. Dravid and Laxman are capable of playing long innings and both deserve a chance up the order. Laxman has failed to push the scoring while batting with tailenders. Yuvraj can definitely be very handy here. Selection of VRV Singh and Ishant Sharma is useless. I have never seen them troubling the batsmen ever. It's better to play Murli Karthik than any of them. I would have liked Pankaj Singh for the sheer talent he has which remains unexplored. Even Ajit Agarkar and Ranadev are better choice than these two.Dinesh Karthik doesn't deserve a chance given that we have players like Gautam Gambhir, who has proven his form and consistency. Pushing Dravid as opener and Laxman as 1st down to accomodate Yuvraj in middle order is another very good option. When Karthik gets out in the very first over, Dravid does nothing but virtually opens the innings. younis khan is the key man

Posted by HOTCHA on (December 7, 2007, 10:50 GMT)

India should go in with VRV Singh and Irfan Pathan as their pace options in the 3rd Test against Pakistan. Ishant Sharma is not quite there, bowling in the 120s. With Tendulkar doubtful, there should be chances for Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh. Karthick, in the team if Dhoni misses out, must bat at the No. 7 slot and not any higher. Kumble and Harbhajan Singh should do the spin honours. Murli Kartik will get his opportunities on the Australian Tour.

Posted by Ashutosh on (December 7, 2007, 9:03 GMT)

For the 3rd test, instead of changing Dravid's place in the batting order, why not open with Jaffer-Ganguly, with Ganguly being in such 'sublime' form and given his hugely successful experience as an opener in the ODIs. It will provide a left-right opening combo and give Yuvraj a place in the team, as well. ( Do I see Ganguly fans wiping sweat from their brows !?! ) I think the selectors missed a trick in this Pak series by trying Munaf again and they're no wiser now. Should've blooded Ishant or Pankaj, they couldn't have done much worse and made the selections for the Aussie series easier as well. Now our King of comebacks - Ajit Agarkar - is back in contention. With Vyangsarkar and Powerkar at the helm,....err.. I mean, Vengsarkar and Powar, Agarkar will get to see his balls being hit to all parts of the WACA, SCG, etc once again.

Posted by SachinRao on (December 7, 2007, 5:11 GMT)

Firstly peeps,Agarkar is not fit and not playing in the Ranji team. He is as injury prone as Nehra,Balaji and Munaf. Tho VRV has just returned to fitness we would have to gamble with him and Pankaj Singh.Ishant isnt impressive enough.Its harsh on Ranadeb but he just lacks the bite,and international cricket is very different from Ranji. Pathan's career jumpstarted in OZ and he will re-create the magic again. The Dinesh/Parthiv conundrum is very tough. Anybody missing out would be highly unlucky.Gambhir is a certainty. I dont think we have prepared well for the series, and i hope like the T20 worldcup we are pleasantly surprised.

Posted by bipulkumar on (December 7, 2007, 4:46 GMT)

Dinesh Karthik doesn't deserve a chance given that we have players like Gautam Gambhir, who has proven his form and consistency. Pushing Dravid as opener and Laxman as 1st down to accomodate Yuvraj in middle order is another very good option. When Karthik gets out in the very first over, Dravid does nothing but virtually opens the innings. So, it won't be a new task for him. Dravid and Laxman are capable of playing long innings and both deserve a chance up the order. Laxman has failed to push the scoring while batting with tailenders. Yuvraj can definitely be very handy here. Selection of VRV Singh and Ishant Sharma is useless. I have never seen them troubling the batsmen ever. It's better to play Murli Karthik than any of them. I would have liked Pankaj Singh for the sheer talent he has which remains unexplored. Even Ajit Agarkar and Ranadev are better choice than these two.

Posted by Greenidge_Lewis on (December 7, 2007, 0:08 GMT)

1.Wasim Jaffer, 2.Dinesh Karthik, 3.Gautam Gambhir, 4.Rahul Dravid, 5.Sachin Tendulkar, 6.Saurav Ganguly, 7.VVS Laxman, 8.Yuvraj Singh, 9.MS Dhoni (w/k), 10.Irfan Pathan, 11.Ajit Agarkar, 12.Anil Kumble (c), 13.Harbajhan Singh, 14.Zaheer Khan, 15.RP Singh, 16.Ranadeb Bose. I feel that this would be the best possible combination of the given list of 24 probables, only changes could possibly be VRV Singh for Ranadeb Bose and Aakash Chopra for Gautam Gambhir. Dinesh Karthik must retain his place after gutsy peformances in South Africa and England, Ajit Agarkar has been our best seamer on the last 2 tours of Australia and the pitches in Australia are suited for his style of bowling, Irfan Pathan is a quality allrounder and what baffles me is why he was kept out of the Test team for so long, baring any fitness issues the other's are certain to make the trip to Australia. No place for Munaf Patel as he is injury prone and not very agile on the field.

Posted by gauravjn on (December 6, 2007, 20:32 GMT)

Virender Sehwag is a must for the autralian tour. One of the reasons India succeeded in their last tour down under was the aggresive starts he provided and was successfull in unsettling the bowlers. By playing slow or just keeping wickets in hand is playing right into the hands of aussies. Stratigically he should be opening in the test along with Jaffer. Furthermore, he was never out of form in the test arena. He has always been a better player in the longer version. Its sheer stupidity to leave him behind coz of his poor display in the one day format.

Posted by emshaikh on (December 6, 2007, 19:19 GMT)

I dont understand why ppl are comparing players on their previous tour experience? why are we not following OZ method? see the current form and pick them in the squad. dont see whether they r senior or junior player. If the senior player is not in form leave him. And guys please dont judge players just on the basis of 1 or 2 matches. Give them a chance for atleast 1 series and check their performaces. In our team, if any youngster is going out of the team then its almost impossible to come back. see sehwag, kaig, balaji, nehra ..... and if this happens with senior, then will say that he had scored 9000+ runs, so he should be in team....he will perform in any of the match. what is this friends.....look for current form and pick the team. Please dont call Agarkar again...pls pls....once again pls.

Ideal indian team as per current form be for Aus tour: Laxman, sachin, yuvraj, jaffer, gambhir/karthik/sehwag, dhoni, pathan, kumble, Zaheer, RP singh, harbhajan/ramesh powar/chawala

Posted by Josab on (December 6, 2007, 19:05 GMT)

It is in a very bad taste that writers put forward their ideas regarding Agarkar. Atleast the reporters and columnists should do research before writing. If anyone among the current Indian pacers to be selected for the Australia series, the first name should be that of Agarkar. He is the only one performed well against Aussies in Australia after Kapil Dev (79 wickets from 20). Agarkar has got 30 wickets in 9 matches against Australia. This is even a better performance than Javgal Srinath who had 30 wickets in 11 matches. It is very much interesting to note that out of the total number of test wickets Agarkar has 30 out of 58. In the 2003-4 series India could win a test in Adelaide Oval mostly because of the bowling of Agarkar with 8 wickets, 6 of them in the second innings. Kumble had 6 wickets in the match. Objectivity is what is lacking in reporting. These kind of writings have great impact on readers as it is obvious in the comments already posted. It is time to grow up!!

Posted by hardhitter71 on (December 6, 2007, 18:27 GMT)

UNFAIR!!!

Gangully, Dravid, and Tendulkar were not DROPPED, after 2007 world cup ignominy!!

Hold consistent standards! If you want to raise the playing standards of Indian cricket team, two of the three big names need to sit on bench to provide a way for young talent with guidance from the experienced and inconsistent trio.

Have the selectors chosen the right players considering the number of injury concerns?
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