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|June 5, 1998||
Dravid, Srinath out, Khoda in
The national selectors stuck to the 14 which won the three-nation cup in Calcutta last Sunday for a much tougher tri-nation Sri Lanka independence championship to be held in Colombo and Galle from June 19.
The team to be led by Mohammed Azharuddin has opener Gagan Khoda instead of Rahul Dravid as an extra batsman while speedster Javagal Srinath failed yet another fitness test to miss the tour. Attacking batsman Vinod Kambli was also ruled unfit while medium pacer Debashish Mohanty who has been in and out of the team for more than a year was prefered over others of similar pace, Harvinder Singh of Punjab, Paras Mhambrey and Abey Kuruvilla of Bombay.
The team: Mohammad Azharuddin (captain), Ajay Jadeja (vice-captain), Nayan Mongia (wicket-keeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Robin Singh, Anil umble, Gagan Khoda, Ajit Agarkar, Venkatesh Prasad, Rahul Sanghvi, Harbhajan Singh and Debashish Mohanty.
Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary Jaywant Lele, after announcing the team, said the selected players will have to assemble at Madras by June 12 for a three-day camp starting the next day.
The team will leave for Colombo on June 16 and play the hosts in the opening day-night match at the Premadasa stadium. They play New Zealand, the third team, on June 23 at the same stadium which will be a day-night affair. Then the teams shift to hill station Galle for another round of matches against India to be played in day time in the same order on June 25 and June 29.
The third round of matches will be at the Sinhalese stadium which has no floodlights. There India take on Sri Lanka on July 1 and the Kiwis on July 3. The day-night final will return to the Premadasa stadium on July 7. The organisers have kept July 8 as the reserve day.
Kishen Rungta, chairman of the selection committee, said apart from the 14 selected, three batsmen -- Navjot Singh Sidhu, V V S Laxman and Dravid -- and three bowlers -- Kuruvilla, Harvinder and Mhambrey -- were seriously considered.
Dwelling elaborately on Khoda's selection and his eventual comparision with Dravid, Rungta said they were still looking for a solid opener for the 1999 World Cup in England.
"Somebody who can stay and put up a big total like the English batsmen did yesterday at Edgbasten against South Africa," Rungta added, rather wishfully.
He said if the need arises to fit Khoda in the team then he will open and Ganguly and Azharuddin will take a drop in the batting order. According to him, the selectors were not impressed by Dravid in the recent tournament which was played at home against weak teams like Bangladesh and Kenya. "He still needs to improve his batting skill for one-dayers," the chairman said. He forcefully pointed out that of the 28 players tried, only Dravid and Robin Singh were picked for all the four league matches.
Rungta refused to discuss the merits and demerits of the other players left out, but after much coaxing he said Kuruvilla has not been doing well this season. Bombay opener Wasim Jaffer, who made a fine debut in 1996 but failed the next season, he added, was discussed casually.
Earlier, Lele explained that Srinath had recently been to South Africa and there a specialist detected a side sprain in his pelvic muscle which has not healed. Though Srinath had been cleared of the shoulder problem which has dogged him in early 1997 and for which he was operated, he was still advised three weeks rest.
Kambli, who broke his ankle while fielding in the match against Australia in April, was now walking without crutches. To recover completely he will have to take water therapy -- walking in knee-deep water -- for another 15 days.
The team's manager is former Delhi player Venkat Sunderam.
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