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Ganguly's future hangs in balance

September 30, 2008 16:45 IST
Last Updated: September 30, 2008 19:04 IST

The newly-appointed senior selection panel, headed by Krishnamachari Srikkanth, will name the Indian squad for the first two Tests against Australia [Images] in Mumbai on Tuesday amid speculation that former skipper Sourav Ganguly [Images] may call it quits if not picked.

Ganguly was ignored for the Irani Cup match, touted as a selection trial by the previous committee, which had Dilip Vengsarkar at the helm.

There is immense pressure and scrutiny on the five wise men less than a week after being appointed on India's first fully-paid selectors' panel at the Board of Control for Cricket in India's 79th AGM in Mumbai.

It will be of great interest not only to Ganguly but also the other senior members of the 'Team of the Nineties' to see which direction the selection panel takes when the team is announced for the October 9-13 Bangalore Test.

An axe on Ganguly, who was a total flop, mustering less than 100 runs on the last Test series in Sri Lanka [Images], will send a strong message across to the other three star batsmen -- Sachin Tendulkar [Images], Rahul Dravid [Images] and V V S Laxman [Images] -- to perform or perish.

Age issue for India's Fab Four

Will Srikkanth and co-selectors Yashpal Sharma, Narendra Hirwani, Surendra Bhave and Raja Venkat pull the rug on the career of Ganguly? That's the big question ahead of one of the most interesting selection panel meetings.

The 36-year-old Bengal stalwart, who staged a spectacular entry into Tests with a debut ton at Lord's in 1996, made a storming return to the five-day game in South Africa [Images] in late 2006 after losing his place earlier that year.

The classy left-hander amassed over 1100 runs, with 239 his career-best score against Pakistan in Bangalore in late 2007, at a fantastic average of 61.44 last year which compares very favourably with his career average of 41.74 in 109 Tests.

He has been unable to maintain that high in the current year, though he came up with important knocks, like the 87 against the visiting South Africans at Kanpur, that helped India level the three-Test rubber in April.

This, however, was followed by the left hander's poor run in Sri Lanka, where his best score was 35 in six innings.

What could also go against Ganguly, who is among the few Indians who have played over 100 Tests, is his fitness and generally poor record against Australia, especially at home, where he averages only 27.35 in nine matches, with a best innings of 66.

In case Ganguly is dropped, it will open the way for younger players like Yuvraj Singh [Images], back in the reckoning with his inclusion in the Board President's team to take on Australia at Hyderabad after being ignored for the Irani tie, Mohammad Kaif, S Badrinath and Rohit Sharma into the playing eleven.

It remains to be seen whether the selectors opt for a third opener as back-up in case either Virender Sehwag [Images] or Gautam Gambhir [Images] are unable to take the field for some reason.

With the other middle order spots more or less decided and the return of Mahendra Singh Dhoni [Images], who opted out of the Test series in Lanka to rest his tired body, shoring up the batting, the selectors will be left with the task of finalising the bowling combination.

Zaheer Khan [Images] and Ishant Sharma are certainties to open the bowling. Munaf Patel [Images] showed good form in the Irani tie and is the front-runner for the third seamer's spot, ahead of R P Singh.

Anil Kumble [Images], expected to be named as captain, and Harbhajan Singh [Images] are sure to take the two spin bowlers' places, with an additional spinner expected to be thrown in as back-up.

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