Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan, both battling poor form in international cricket, have been dropped from the Indian one-day squad for the the first two matches of the four-match home ODI series against West Indies. Sehwag, the vice captain of the Indian team till recently, has been sent home to Delhi to "sort out his batting." Irfan Pathan, till recently the poster boy of Indian cricket, has yielded his spot to Joginder Sharma, the Haryana allrounder.
Mohammad Kaif or Dinesh Mongia were the other players from the squad that toured South Africa to miss out, while Suersh Raina managed to keep his place. Significantly, Sachin Tendulkar has been named the vice-captain in Sehwag's absence and expected, Sourav Ganguly, has returned to the one-day set up.
"Virender Sehwag has been out of form for quite some time," said Dilip Vengsarkar, the chairman of selectors. "He has to go back to the nets and sort out his cricket, his batting basically. He is a fine player and am sure he will come back. I'd like to say that he will have to go to the nets and sort out his batting."
When asked about Pathan's exclusion Vengsarkar said, "He has to bowl well, has to get wickets also. He has been out of form and I am sure he will find his way again and has a chance to come back." Vengsarkar also clarified that Anil Kumble was not dropped, but that he was "being given a break and will be there for the third and fourth ODI." Equally, he did not mince words when asked about the absence of Mongia and Kaif - "they have been dropped," he said.
The team for the first two ODIs contains four openers - Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa - and Vengsarkar said it was for the captain and the coach to decide who would open the innings when the time came. He also clarified that Dinesh Karthik was picked as much as a batsman as a reserve wicketkeeper.
Vengsarkar also said that it was unlikely that Yuvraj Singh would regain match fitness in time to play against the West Indies and that he would come into contention for the home series against Sri Lanka if fit.
VVS Laxman was once again left out of a one-day squad, and Vengsarkar only reiterated his earlier position when asked about the issue. "His fielding is a problem. As is running between wickets. He is a fine batsman. No question about his ability as a batsman. He is not a good mover in the field and that went against him."
Despite having to field a volley of questions from a packed hall of media-persons, Vengsarkar was in his element, explaining things candidly and lucidly. When one reporter asked him why there were no legspinners in the list of 30 World Cup probables (other than Kumble) he replied by asking, "Can you name one?" Similarly, when another reporter put it to Vengsarkar that Ashish Nehra played well in the last World Cup, and wondered why he was not included in the squad, pat came the reply. "The last World Cup was four years ago. This is 2007. Even I played in the World Cup in 1987."
The drama began at 11am when the selectors reached the ground, and were whisked away to a room on the second floor, just above the dressing-rooms. There they spent just under two hours deliberating, along with Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid. At around 11.20am Dravid, who was fielding at first slip, was called in by Shah. At 1.19pm the meeting ended, and Vengsarkar addressed a packed press conference.
Squad for the first two one-day internationals against the West Indies Rahul Dravid (capt), Sachin Tendulkar (vice-capt), Robin Uthappa, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Joginder Sharma, Ramesh Powar, Harbhajan Singh, Rudra Pratap Singh
World Cup probables Rahul Dravid (capt), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Suresh Raina, Ramesh Powar, Anil Kumble, Rudra Pratap Singh, Dinesh Mongia, VRV Singh, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik, Sourav Ganguly, Parthiv Patel, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, S. Badrinath, Ishant Sharma, Rajesh Pawar, Joginder Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo