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Who will replace Tendulkar?

May 23, 2006 19:01 IST

Sachin Tendulkar's absence has left a middle-order spot up for grabs, even as the national selectors meet in Mumbai on Wednesday to choose a 15-member squad for the four-Test series against the West Indies starting on June 2.

Tendulkar on Tuesday was ruled out of the Test series after it was found that his shoulder had not healed enough to undergo the rigours of international cricket.

It has left a huge gap in the middle of the Indian batting order and it looks likely that either Mohammed Kaif or his younger UP colleague Suresh Raina would be retained for the Test rubber after taking part in the one-day series.

The selectors are certain to opt for fit-again opener Wasim Jaffer, experienced batsman V V S Laxman and India's leading Test wicket-taker Anil Kumble apart from a second wicketkeeper.

Gujarat stumper Parthiv Patel seems to have an edge over his Tamil Nadu rival Dinesh Kaarthick as he was the second wicketkeeper behind first-choice Mahendra Singh Dhoni on the team's last visit overseas -- to Pakistan in January-February earlier this year.

The players expected to return after the end of the one-day series on May 28 are middle order batsman Venugopala Rao, left arm pacer Rudra Pratap Singh, off spinner Ramesh Powar and Kaif or Raina.

A change in scenario can see both being retained or one of them along with Powar in which case the axe could fall on opener Robin Uthappa.

The Board has decided only on a 15-member squad, including a second 'keeper if needed, according to BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah.

Jaffer underwent a tough fitness regime on Tuesday in the presence of former team physiotherapist Andrew Leipus, head of the BCCI medical panel Dr Anant Joshi, who had performed a shin operation on his right leg in April, and selection committee chairman Kiran More.

The Mumbai righthander's last appearance was in the third and final Test in Mumbai against England on March 22.

With Virender Sehwag's form not as consistent as the team management would like it to be and the inexperienced  Uthappa untested at the Test level, Jaffer's selection seems to be a foregone conclusion once he proved he had recovered from the shin surgery today.

If chosen it will be the 28-year-old opener's second visit to the West Indies following his maiden tour in 2002 under Sourav Ganguly.

Laxman and Kumble are key members of the Test squad, though they have been pushed out of the one-day picture, and are certainties for the second half of the tour that concludes on July 4 with the fourth Test at Jamaica.

Both have the experience of Caribbean conditions, having been part of the tours both in 1997 and 2002.

The Bangalore stalwart may not have pleasant memories of the tour four years ago when his jaw was broken while facing upto a Merv Dillon snorter and he bowled in the second innings gamely with the broken part wired up, besides taking the prize wicket of Brian Lara as well.

The selectors would also choose the India A team for the Top End series organised by Cricket Australia in the northern cities of Darwin and Cairns.

The team would play a quadrangular series also featuring A teams of Pakistan, New Zealand and the hosts, besides taking on Australia A in a four-day tie.

India A's schedule in Australia:

June 30-July 3: v Chief Minister's XI at Marrara stadium, Darwin

July 6: v Pak A at Marrara Stadium, Darwin

July 8: v Aus A at Marrara Stadium, Darwin

July 11: v NZ A at Gardens Oval, Darwin

July 18-21: v Aus A at Cazalys Stadium, Cairns

July 24: v NZ A at Cazalys Stadium, Cairns.


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