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Balaji unlucky to miss out

Faisal Shariff in Mohali | October 17, 2003 17:53 IST
Last Updated: October 17, 2003 23:37 IST

The Indian selectors played safe and picked a team without any surprises for the first three Limited Overs Internationals of the triangular series involving India, New Zealand and Australia beginning October 23.

While V V S Laxman returns to the squad, the selectors decided against trying out any youngsters ahead of the upcoming tour of Australia.

India plays two of its first three LOIs against Australia and it is imperative that it fields its best team for the key games.

The squad comprises seven batsmen, three specialist spinners, three pace bowlers, and wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel.

Board secretary S K Nair refused to say whether Patel would keep wickets and Dravid relieved of his responsibilities behind the stumps. "That will be a team management decision," he said. "The selectors will not interfere with the final eleven."

The team management is, however, keen that Dravid continue to keep wickets in key games to beef up the batting.

Laxmipathy Balaji and Sairaj Bahutule will consider themselves unlucky. After breaking into the Test squad they have been ignored for the LOIs without even getting a look-in.

Balaji bowled with good pace in the two Tests and though he did not return great bowling figures, he must have certainly impressed the coach and captain, despite the fact that he was included for the second Test in place of the injured Aavishkar Salvi only on the first morning.

If left-arm spinner Murali Kartik's omission from the Test series was intriguing, his selection for the one-day series is baffling.

True, Kartik is rated by most former spinners and some senior players as the best spinner in the country. True also that the selectors have failed to give him a fair chance so far.

According to a selector, Kartik was not considered for the Test series because he bowled too many no-balls in the Challenger Series and the side games against the Kiwis. But then, isn't bowling no-balls a bigger sin in LOIs? The selectors certainly have something to explain here.

Another selector, keen on giving Bahutule a go in the current Test series, was critical of Kumble's selection. "When will we start hunting for a leg-spinner to succeed Kumble?" he said. "Why pick Sairaj [Bahutule] in the Test side if you are not going to give him a game? But what can I do? Majority wins."

The majority was, however, right in reinducting Laxman. After topping the one-day averages in the home series against the West Indies, he was shockingly excluded from the squad for the World Cup. His inclusion is expected to add solidity to the middle order.

The committee, however, appears to have erased Sanjay Bangar from their radars. The all-rounder, dropped from the Test squad to make way for Delhi opener Akash Chopra, has been out of the LOI squad since the World Cup. His statistics, though, make for sorry reading, with Bangar having scored just 24 runs in the last six LOIs he played with a top score of 9.

The team: Sourav Ganguly (c), Rahul Dravid (wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Zaheer Khan, V V S Laxman, Virender Shewag, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Murali Karthik, Parthiv Patel (wk), Aavishkar Salvi, Ajit Agarkar.

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