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Asia Cup: Ind selectors face tough calls

Press Trust Of India
Feb 29, 2012 at 09:14am IST

Mumbai: Indian selectors will have a lot to discuss and deliberate in the wake of the national team's pathetic show in Australia, when they meet in Mumbai on Wednesday to pick the squad for next month's Asia Cup in Bangladesh.

With the team seemingly in disarray in Australia because of a collective failure, especially in the batting department, Krishnamachari Srikkanth and his co-selectors will have to do a fine balancing act to get Indian cricket back on track.

The five men are under immense pressure from millions of fans in the country to wield the axe and discard non-performing members of the squad now in Australia.

Asia Cup: Indian selectors face tough calls

Whether they rest or axe seniors like Sachin and Sehwag and inject new blood is open to conjecture.

Whether they rest or axe senior batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, who is in woeful form at present and is also allegedly at loggerheads with the skipper, and under-performing juniors like Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja - and inject new blood - is open to conjecture.

It is not clear whether skipper MS Dhoni, having played non-stop cricket and looking jaded himself, will be rested for the four-nation continental championships, to be held in Dhaka from March 11 and 22.

India are the defending champions and five-time winners of the trophy and a huge alteration in the composition of the squad is unlikely. But there are going to be changes after the consecutive flop show in England and Australia by the World Cup-winning team.

There are some injury worries too, notably to R Vinay Kumar and Irfan Pathan.

Kumar sat out the team's penultimate league game against Australia and also missed the last game against Sri Lanka at Hobart, while Pathan, who collided on the field with Raina at Sydney, was not fit enough to take the field in their final round-robin match against the Lankans.

In order to wield the axe in a forthright manner, the reserves cupboard should be full, but going by the domestic displays, there are very few new faces which have caught the eye in the ongoing zonal one-dayers.

Irfan's brother Yusuf, who has started playing after getting injured in the earlier part of the season, has shown how much of a game-changer he can be when conditions suit his style of batting in the sub-continent by blasting his way to a century against Saurashtra two days ago with the help of 10 sixes and six fours.

With Jadeja being out of sorts and Test specialist Pragyan Ojha also not among the thick of wickets in the one-day domestic event, Yusuf is very likely to be recalled to the squad for his all round abilities as a powerful hitter lower down the order and an economical off-break bowler.

Also on the selectors' radar could be Robin Uthappa, another big-hitting batsman, who is third in the top scorers' list in the Vijay Hazare Trophy with 292 runs, including a belligerent century.

Topping the run-getters' list is Kakinada-born Dwaraka Ravi Teja of Hyderabad with 354 runs from 5 games at 85-plus per innings and second is Tamil Nadu wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik (302 from 5 games with 72-plus average).

Teja is a hard-hitting opener, who also bowls leg breaks and has taken seven wickets in the one-day league, while Karthik has considerable experience and has a good chance of getting picked if Dhoni is rested.

Wridhiman Saha, now considered the number two wicket-keeper after Dhoni for Tests, must also be in the selectors' thoughts after his good show for Bengal in the one-dayers, aggregating 206 from three games at over 91 per innings.

And then there are the likes of Dheeraj Jadhav of Assam, who was once in the running for an India berth, Karnataka's Ganesh Satish, young Saurashtra batsman Chirag Jani, Goa's Swapnil Asnodkar and Maharashtra's Ankit Bawne, who have all done well in the zonal one-dayers.

The bowling cupboard looks a bit bereft of quality unless the selectors think it wise to go back to the likes of injury-prone Munaf Patel and Ashish Nehra, who were part of the World Cup-winning squad.

Bengal medium pacer Ashok Dinda appears to be the front-runner to resurrect his international career following a very impressive display in domestic first-class cricket this season.

However, the top wicket-taker in the one-dayers is little known medium pacer Ronit More, from Belgaum in Karnataka, with 15 scalps at an impressive average of 11.5, and the second-highest is Delhi's experienced Parvinder Awana, also a medium pacer, along with Shailendra Gehlot of Railways, another new ball bowler.

Karnataka's Abhimanyu Mithun has struggled a bit to adjust to Indian conditions after returning without playing a Test in Australia and the highest wicket-taker among slow bowlers is Maharashtra left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar (9 wickets in 3 games at 16.22).

Darekar had grabbed 13 wickets in the Ranji Trophy game against Hyderabad on an under-prepared wicket earlier in the season.

How much the selectors, who have watched the one-day domestic tournament, are swayed by these displays is to be seen, but beyond a shadow of doubt is the fact that they are under intense scrutiny to deliver the goods and bring India back in the groove.

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