Sourav Ganguly is the notable omission from India’s 16-member squad for the tri-nation CB Series, which starts on February 3, and the solitary Twenty20 international at the MCG on February 1. There was no recall either for Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman for the tournament, which also features Australia and Sri Lanka, with the selectors putting the emphasis on youth.
Suresh Raina, who last played an ODI in January 2007, and Praveen Kumar, the allrounder who played an ODI last season, benefited from good performances in Uttar Pradesh’s Ranji Trophy season, one they ended as runners-up.A third UP player, Piyush Chawla, who was impressive on last year’s tour of England, gets the nod for the second spinner’s spot ahead of Murali Kartik. Chawla was preferred because the selectors were of the opinion that a wrist-spinner would be handy on Australian pitches.
The most contentious decision, though, involved Ganguly. It is believed that the captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, wanted to stick with a majority of the squad that won the World Twenty20 last September.
Explaining why Ganguly was overlooked, BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah said, “The emphasis was on fielding abilities and they [the team management] wanted a young fielding side for the series. That’s why you see a lot of youngsters in the side.” After a run of three half-centuries in four matches against England last year, Ganguly has managed 231 runs at 25.66 in nine innings.
India’s fast-bowling attack will be led by RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth, who missed the Test series against Australia with a shoulder injury. Joining them will be Praveen, who took eight Delhi wickets in the first innings of the Ranji Trophy final last week.
While Sreesanth was recalled after a brief stint at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore, there was no place for Munaf Patel. Though both Munaf and Sreesanth were cleared by the NCA, it is learnt that the selectors wanted Munaf to get more match practice before considering him. India’s attack will also miss their spearhead Zaheer Khan, who is yet to recover from his heel injury.
Gautam Gambhir, who has cracked three centuries in the Ranji Trophy [two of them match-winning efforts, in the semi-final and final], and Dinesh Karthik have been included.
Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan and Munaf have been placed on standby and will join the squad in case of any injuries.
Squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla