A Pak Tribune Report on the Opening Gambit as well as 3rd Test Indian Squad
Ganguly's enthusiasm of playing third Test may backfire!
As the three Test series between Pakistan and India getting levelled at 1-1 at Lahore, the curiosity of the cricket enthusiasts not only in the Indian sub-continent, but all over the world has heightened it's peak to know as to what is in the store for the third and final Test.
With the India's regular captain Sourav Ganguly all set to return to the final XI for this decider at Rawalpindi, the debate has already began as to who will vacate for Ganguly. The Indian captain himself has given an indication that Yuvraj could be tried as an opener, which means the axe will finally fall on Akash Chopra who has four century partnership to his credit along with Virender Sehwag in as many as eight Test matches, which is a heartening development for the Indian team after a long time.
Geoff Boycott who is currently in Caribbean covering the Test series between England and West Indies, in his syndicated column has written that it would be an act of 'stupidity' to drop Akash Chopra, who apart from a good opener, is very alert fielder at the forward short-leg having very good reflexes.
On the other hand, Mohammad Azahurddin, writing for an Indian newspaper feels that Chopra is such a batsman who has virtually no strokes in his armoury in front of the wicket. Azhar writes, Chopra crawls too much even to get his 40's, thereby indirectly suggesting that he can not be regarded as an ideal opener.
India's legendary batsman Sunil Gavaskar has always held that Sehwag -Chopra is an ideal opening pair, which according to him amounts to a combination of an 'aggression' with 'solidity'.
One can not forget the fact that although Chopra has exhibited his limited potential till this date, with only eight Tests under his belt, he can hold one end of the wicket quite firmly, if there is going to be a collapse at the other end! Does any one remember, that at Mohali, while playing only in his second Test, this Delhi lad was instrumental in a useful partnership of 110 runs with VVS Laxman, after Sehwag, Dravid and Tendulkar were consumed by Darryl Tuffey in the span of 13 overs, which reduced India at 18 for 3, after they were asked to follow on by New Zealand inspite of India scoring 424 runs in their first innings. In fact, it was this partnership, which saved India from a possible defeat, as they could have been bundled out in the 70 remaining overs on the fifth and final day.
There is no denial of the fact that Yuvraj Singh, the debutant at Mohali in his three Test appearances has shown a tremendous talent in the longer version of the game and his presence is better suited at No. 6, rather than in the opening slot. Boycott feels that when Yuvraj played for Yorkshire (Boycott's home county) in the last English season, he had a torrid time in negotiating with the red cherry.
The way, Yuvraj rescued the Indian team with the help of Irfan Pathan after they were reduced to 147 for 7 at Lahore in the first innings makes his presence more useful in the middle - order, as he gets an opportunity to face the old ball more, rather than a new ball.
The debate is also going on to find out if Parthiv Patel could be sent as an opener along with Sehwag! Again this is also an unthinkable move. How can we blame this diminutive keeper if he fails to deliver the goods as an opener, after keeping wickets for 100 odd overs, if the opposition were to bat first? Imagine how much physical pressure and strain he would be bearing after keeping wickets for a day or sometimes more than that. We can not forget that he along with Ajit Agarkar had added 75 runs for eighth wicket, which made Pakistan to bat again to register a win at Lahore. Therefore his presence in the lower order is justifiable.
In any case, the dropping of Akash Chopra would mean an upsetting the applecart and it would be an unwise move when the series has reached to a crucial moment. If any such move is made of sending Yuvraj or Patel as Sehwag's opener, then India will have to rue it's decision if Pakistan speedsters were to run through visitor's upper-half batting line up at Rawalpindi, where the strip is supposed to assist them.
One can understand if such experiments are made at the beginning of a series, when there can be a scope for rectification, but certainly not for the last and most crucial match of the series.
There is no way that Ganguly could be accommodated in the team at the expenses of a bowler. As India are already studded with six frontline batsmen and they are already running short of one genuine bowler. Therefore, the question arises why India's regular captain should insist of playing in final XI?
Remember, Ganguly had to leave the field when he pulled up his muscles in the last one-dayer at Lahore. Initially he was ruled out of first Test at Multan. Thereafter, inspite of the presence of physiotherapist Andrew Leipus and physical trainer along with the team, he preferred to fly home for a check up with his orthopaedic surgeon in Koltaka. Ganguly's this move was severely criticised by Kapil Dev who felt it was an unwise act of leaving his team in lurch. He has not only deprived himself of batting practise for more than ten days, but he has also kept himself away the cricketing environment. By physically remaining with the team even when the second Test was in progress, he could have easily studied the strength and weaknesses of his own team and that of hosts as well, which would have helped him to draw the strategies for the last game.
Moreover, Ganguly is not so in a good nick with his bat. On the Australian tour, barring his scores of 144 at Brisbane and 73 at Melbourne, his other innings are not so well inspiring. Even during the five games of the ODI series against Pakistan, his knocks of 45, 15, 39, 21 and 45 can not be termed as so healthy. Off late, his fielding too has become too sloppy. Under such circumstances, he would be incurring a big liability by playing in the third Test on the backdrop of all these short comings.
Dravid, as a captain in-charge is in the learning process. There is no point in blaming him for opting to bat first at Lahore, as it was definitely a wiser proposition that playing the fourth innings on the turning track. Dravid is a captain cool, in contrast to Ganguly who gets easily enraged. This is not to suggest that Ganguly should be permanently replaced by Dravid henceforth.
Ganguly's captaincy is not at all under any threat and without any doubt he would be India's captain for ICC trophy to be held in the second half of this year's English summer and when both South Africa and Australia would be touring India in the last quarter of this year.
The indication has it that Rawalpindi turf would be ideally suited for the fast bowlers and it would be low scoring game. If India were to win, it would be a great achievement in itself. However, after making lots of changes in the squad and also by disturbing the well settled batting line up (my gut feeling is that Ganguly would insist for the presence of Nehra in place of Agarkar !) if India were to loose badly, then the blame would squarely be put on Ganguly for his sheer insistence of playing the third Test.
Therefore, it would be an ideal thing to let Dravid lead India for Rawalpindi encounter, than Ganguly who will have to strive hard to prove his fitness, batting prowess, fielding and above all his captaincy, which is a thankless job by any means. In fact, Ganguly will be doing great service to the Indian team, if he opts himself out from playing third and final Test. His insistence or enthusiasm of playing third Test might back fire prove costly for the Indian team.