The Indian squad for Oz Land '03 runs thus - Sourav Ganguly (capt), Akash Chopra, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Parthiv Patel (wk), Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Ajit Agarkar, Sadagoppan Ramesh, Aavishkar Salvi, Deep Dasgupta (wk) and Irfan Pathan. (courtesy Cricinfo)
I think I am rightly assuming that the squad for the VB series involving the Aussies, Zimbabweans and the Indians will be announced midway through the tour. And that would be another exercise in frustration, I am sure, atleast for the Indian enthusiast. But first about this squad for the Test matches.
Surprise Inclusions - Both Ramesh and Dasgupta. This seems to be the master stroke. Everybody assumed that since a backup keeper was necessary and Dasgupta being the man of the moment, he would make the squad only at the expense of Ramesh, "since he could open the batting as well". "No Sir", said Kirmani and Co. and hence we find both making the trip! Does that mean Sehwag's Xenia Onatop impression might be meeting a climax soon or is it already over? Anyways, 3 "specialist" openers and one goalkeeper who can open too (if you ask Sidhu, who wanted to transfer him to ManU and Robin Singh) is way too ostentatious for an underperforming team such as India whose bowling department seems sparse.
And Irfan Pathan Jr. ? Hmm... Why was poor Lakshmipathi in the squad for part of this TVS series at all and what about his lion hearted performances in both Test matches against the Kiwis on feather beds disguised as pitches? Another T.Kumaran in the making?? I hope not!
Notable Exclusions - Murali Karthik. That boy is of the Srinath mold for sure. Is a musta and bowls his heart out , but is as unlucky as the 13th guest at supper. His bowling has been top class in both the matches he played in this series and should count himself unlucky. His case is just like that of Stuart McGill vis-a-vis Shane Warne, though Kumble and Harbhajan are not even half as threatening as Warne or even McGill in their backyard.
Btw, Munaf Patel's case might be turning into something similar to the hoopla surrounding this mysterious Namibian bowler who has his name spelt with a "!" no less. Hyped to beat the likes of Shoaib and Lee but slowly going back into obscurity, unless he suddenly "re-arrives" with a couple of broken skulls and a brace of hat-tricks. But with pitches like the one for the last match at the Fateh Maidan, that looks highly unlikely.
Cricinfo predicts a sound drubbing at Brisbane for his Indian team that faces a team, 6 of whose likely players make the top 10 in the world at the moment in either the batting or the bowling charts. However I am slightly more charitable than that and would say that unless this team disintegrates badly like last time, we have a chance of atleast drawing 2 of Tests, mostly in Melbourne and Sydney where we have performed marginally better previously.
But nothing shall gladden me than a win or two even if the series is not won. However by doing so, I think that we would be barraged with comments from one and all that we have performed beyond expectations and hence should be happy. And we shall all be told that this team is one of the best ever Indian teams. Hence, going by this thought, I feel that "Celebrate Small Successes" might be one Sunny Therappan axiom that I would urge the cricket fans in India to forget. Let's win every one Down Under and not be satisfied with anything else!
Update: Salvi is injured and Balaji gets into the Australia bound squad in his place. Great news for Balaji. Just that its as fishy as so many things about the Indian Team. I would actually want Kartik in place of Kumble, because by not taking Harbhajan to Oz land, we would be jeopardizing any future chances India have there. Is there any way Kartik can get in?
Update - o - update: My question that formed the last line of the previous update to this post is answered!!! (11/12/03)