It will take more than a Duleep Trophy hundred for Sourav Ganguly to make it back to the Indian one-day team. The national selectors kept their faith in the team that won the first two one-day internationals against Sri Lanka and overlooked Ganguly despite the fact that he had proved both form and fitness with a Duleep Trophy century for East Zone against North Zone recently. Kiran More, chairman of selectors, and his panel deliberated for less than half an hour and announced an unchanged squad of 15 for the next three matches.
Where this leaves Ganguly, and his one-day career, is not exactly clear. "He is fit but does not figure in the team at the moment," said More at a press conference following the announcement of the squad. "We have selected the best side possible for the next three matches. Sourav is a great player. We have tremendous regard for his outstanding performance as batsman and captain, and things are not in his favour at the moment. We realise he has not done that well of late, but he is a strong character and I am sure he will bounce back strongly. It is not fair to say that his one-day career is over, we can't do that to anyone. We have great regard for him but we feel the youngsters are doing a good job. They must be given enough opportunity to gain experience before the World Cup."
It is clear now that various factors - fitness, attitude and fielding among them - are being considered with one eye on the 2007 World Cup. "It will not be fair to field a player with three or four caps in the World Cup. He should have played 20 to 25 games and be reasonably experienced by then," More said. "We have enough options at the moment and are looking to have a pool of 22 players from whom we can pick the final World Cup squad."
More called the meeting, which was also attended by Rahul Dravid, the captain, and Greg Chappell, a "good" one, and added, "We have been having discussions for the past two days. The team has done very well in these two one-dayers, they have performed outstandingly. The body language is excellent, which wasn't there earlier. And the fielding has been great. There is a long way to go - we still have five matches to play in this series, but the signs are extremely promising."
Meetings involving key decisions, like the one taken today, have been fractious and long-drawn out affairs in the past, and board secretary SK Nair's statement claiming, as always, that the decisions taken were unanimous, would have normally been met with cynicism. However, it has been reliably learnt that on this occasion there really was no dissenting voice to the suggestion from captain and coach that the same squad be retained for the next three matches.
The selectors, sources reveal, were impressed with the commitment and performance of this squad and decided not to make any cosmetic changes. When More addressed the media he also made it clear that he would divulge the names of players considered for selection, and that any conversations he may or may not have had with players and officials would remain confidential.
While this is not necessarily the end of the road for Ganguly, if the team continues to perform like it has in the last two matches it will only become progressively harder for him to make his way back into the squad. The squad for the last two matches of the seven-match series will be picked in Ahmedabad on November 6.
India squad Rahul Dravid (capt), Ajit Agarkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Gautam Gambhir, Murali Kartik, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Y Venugopala Rao, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Rudra Pratap Singh, Yuvraj Singh, S Sreesanth, Sachin Tendulkar, Jai Prakash Yadav.