Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ganguly career in balance

Ganguly was ignored for the Irani Cup tie touted as a selection trial by the previous committee with 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 Cricket Board's 79th AGM here.

It would 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, would send a strong message across to the other three star batsmen - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman - to perform or perish.

Will Srikkanth and co-selectors Yashpal Sharma, Narendra Hirwani, Surendra Bhave and Raja Venkat pull the rug on the career of Ganguly is 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 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 has come up with important knocks like the 87 he made against the visiting South Africans at Kanpur that helped India level the three-Test rubber in April.

This, however, was followed by the left handed stylist'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 in over 100 Tests, is his fitness level and generally poor record against the world's best team, especially at home where he averages only 27.35 in nine matches with a best innings of 66.

In case Ganguly is dropped it would open the way for younger players like Yuvraj Singh, 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, Mohd Kaif, S Badrinath and Rohit Sharma into the playing XI. It remains to be seen whether the selectors opt for a third opener as back-up in case either Virender Sehwag or Gautam Gambhir 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, who opted out of the Test series in Lanka to rest his tired body, shoring up the batting, the selectors would be left with the task of finalising the bowling combination.

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

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

No comments: