Mahendra Singh Dhoni Fansite

Axing disrupts India’s Test preparation

India is fending off angry reactions from home which have put a major distraction into the tourists’ camp ahead of the fourth and final cricket Test against Australia.

Just two days after India posted one of their greatest Test wins, in Perth, effigies were being burned across the subcontinent over the axing of veteran batsman Sourav Ganguly from the one-day squad.

While it was effigies of Australian captain Ricky Ponting and umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson that were being burned following the second Test in Sydney, incensed fans in Kolkata burned the image of Indian board president Sharad Pawar.

The anger came after Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were all left out of a youthful limited overs squad to contest the series against Australia and Sri Lanka, which starts in February.

The issue has provided an unwelcome distraction after the 72-run win in the third Test in Perth, especially as the three veteran batsmen will be part of the side to play in the fourth Test, which starts Thursday at Adelaide Oval.

The limited-overs axings dominated an Indian press conference, and at one stage interim coach Lalchand Rajput was asked by an Indian reporter how “our heroes” could be treated so badly.

Rajput attempted to return the focus back to the Test series, where India have the chance to square the contest 2-2.

“This is not the forum to discuss that because it is important for our team to focus on the Test,” Rajput said.

“At the moment we are just concentrating on the Test series, we are not looking ahead for the one-dayers … this is a very, very important game for us.”

The issue has flared to the point where one cricket administrator hinted limited overs captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni did not want Ganguly in his side.

Ganguly had initially been a revelation for the one-day side on his return to international cricket in 2006, but his returns have declined in ensuing series, while neither Dravid nor Laxman have figured in the shorter format recently.

However it was Ganguly’s name on the lips of most protesters, and the batsman sometimes known as “the Prince of Kolkata” found strong support from his home administrators.

The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) described Ganguly’s sacking as a “grave injustice”.

“What has been done is totally wrong, grave injustice is being done to him,” CAB joint secretary Samar Pal said.

“It seems Dhoni did not want him in the side. Dhoni is more comfortable with juniors so he is in favour of axing seniors.

“But we will not sit idle. We will lodge a strong protest (with the BCCI).”

The issue became so heated that former Indian player Navjot Sidhu challenged chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar to “an open debate” on the axing.

“I challenge Mr Vengsarkar to an open debate. If he can convince me on why he dropped Ganguly then I will leave NDTV (where Sidhu commentates) for a lifetime, otherwise he has to quit,” Sidhu said.

“You can’t drop because you don’t like somebody’s face.”

India must this week also resolve a tricky selection quandary for the final Test, over the make-up of the bowling attack.

The great performances of pacemen RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma in Perth makes them tough to drop if the tourists want Harbhajan Singh to bowl spin alongside captain Anil Kumble.

To squeeze Harbhajan in at what should be a spinners’ venue would mean either dropping one of the quicks or struggling opener Wasim Jaffer, and playing only five specialist batsmen.

But the last time India played five bowlers backfired badly, as England bowled them out for 100 in the final innings of the Test in Mumbai in 2005, and India’s 212-run defeat meant the series was squared 1-1.

Rajput declined to discuss selection for the Test, as he wanted to assess the pitch beforehand.

Leave a Reply