Ganguly, Dravid left out of tri-series squad


Mumbai : The national cricket selectors, with an eye to the 2011 World Cup, Sunday dropped former captains Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly from the 16-member Indian squad for the Commonwealth Bank triangular series next month with Australia and Sri Lanka.

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The selectors, however, retained Sachin Tendulkar, obviously not wanting to ignore the present for the sake of the distant future, though he, too, may not be around till the next World Cup in the subcontinent.

V.V.S. Laxman is another player who does not seem to have impressed the selectors whatever he might do as a Test cricketer, as they keep raising questions over his fielding and running between the wickets, forgetting that he is a world-class slip fielder.

The biggest surprise, however, is the exclusion of Ganguly. The former captain is one of the cleanest hitters of the ball and would have been handy. But he may not regularly find a place in the playing 11 as an opener with Virender Sehwag back in contention and Tendulkar not wanting to go down the order.

Ganguly’s fielding in the Test series and the manner he batted in the ODIs against Australia and Pakistan in the recent home series did not help his cause.

While announcing the squad, India’s cricket board secretary Niranjan Shah said the selectors were looking ahead to build the squad for the next World Cup.

The emphasis on an energetic fielding side saw youth getting the nod over the 35-plus great batsmen. This is a clear indication that Ganguly and Dravid will not figure in the selectors’ scheme of things for the one-dayers.

The selectors, perhaps, did not want to face the awkward situation of justifying the inclusion of Ganguly and the omission of Dravid. Also, if Ganguly and Dravid had to be accommodated, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma would have to be left out. The two youngsters have done well in the limited opportunities they got and are also excellent fielders.

The selectors kept their faith in Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa despite their none-too-happy performances in domestic cricket this season.

Another stark move is to drop left-arm spinner Murali Karthik whose selection for the home ODIs against Australia and Pakistan was touted as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s masterstroke. There appears to be reluctance on the part of the selectors as well as team management to vote for the left-arm spinner.

With Sehwag, Tendulkar and Yuvraj regularly turning their arm over in the ODIs, there is no scope for a third spinner, once the young leg-spinner Piyush Chawla is fit and Harbhajan Singh is there.

Nine players from the Test squad getting ready to play the last of the four-Test series at Adelaide have been retained. Skipper Anil Kumble will hand over the baton to Dhoni for the tri-series and will return home along with Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Wasim Jaffer, Pankaj Singh and V.R.V. Singh who had joined the squad as a replacement for the injured Zaheer Khan after the first Test in Melbourne.

The selectors have also announced that Munaf Patel, Manoj Tiwari and Yousuf Pathan will be the standbys in case any player has to be flown out to replace an injured player.

The selection committee meeting in Mumbai was attended by chairman Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Jagdale and Bhupinder Singh Jr. and the squad was finalised after a teleconference with the other two selectors Venkatapathy Raju and Ranji Biswal who are in Australia.

The 16-member squad:

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Piyush Chawla and Pravin Kumar.