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April 4, 1999


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Mohanty picked for World Cup squad

Prem Panicker

The national selectors, midway through the Pepsi Cup final in Sharjah, named the 15-member squad for the World Cup.

The real surprise -- a welcome one -- was the decision to pick Debashish Mohanty, who had been dropped when the first list of 30 was pruned to 19 earlier. His ability to swing the ball both ways will come as a distinct plus in English conditions.

Why Mohanty was dropped when making the shortlist, in the first place, will remain one of those mysteries. This might sound like petty nit-picking -- 'After all, the selectors finally did get it right, didn't they?'.

But the point is, these tournaments are run as per rules. And the rules are that once the 19-member shortlist is submitted, the final squad has to be picked from that list, unless and until injury interferes.

Injury is not the case here. So this means that India now has to seek the organisers' permission for including Mohanty. India earlier wanted an extension of the deadline for picking the 19. Then it wanted an extension for picking the 15. Does it occur to the board that if the organisers decide to act tough and to enforce the rules, they could not only suffer severe embarassment, but also end up not having the player they want?

This is why the question -- why did the selectors drop Mohanty from the 19-member shortlist? -- is important. Four of them -- Wadekar, Madan Lal, Ashok Malhotra, and Shivlal Yadav -- have played at the highest level. Is it too much to ask that they be conversant with the rules governing tournaments? That they act on time, and act with sense?

Or is the word 'accountability' a completely unknown concept, from the top of India's cricket establishment to the bottom?

Meanwhile, the selectors also kept faith with both Sadagopan Ramesh and Amay Khurasia, despite their poor showing in the final. Given the need for a reserve opener, and a sound middle order batsman, in the squad, both were obvious picks -- more so given the question marks that remain over Kambli.

The squad reads: Mohammad Azharuddin (captain), Ajay Jadeja (vice captain), Nayan Mongia (wicket-keeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sadagopan Ramesh, Nikhil Chopra, Debashish Mohanty, Amay Khurasia, Robin Singh, Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Ajit Agarkar, Anil Kumble.

The selectors also announced the following squad to take part in the upcoming tri-series in Sharjah, against Pakistan and England: Azharuddin, Jadeja, Ramesh, Ganguly, Dravid, Kambli, Khurasiya, Srinath, Agarkar, Prasad, Chopra, Kumble, Robin Singh, Nayan Mongia, Sunil Joshi.

Frankly, this one is a shocker. Tendulkar is resting his back, so his absence is explained. But since Mohanty has been picked to go to England, wouldn't it have made sense to give him the berth to Sharjah, let him have a few competitive games and get back into the groove?

Again, one would imagine that the idea would be to take the World Cup squad to Sharjah as well, and allow them to get together as a team. Given that, what on earth are Vinod Kambli and Sunil Joshi doing in that squad? Both players find no place in the England-bound team -- are the selectors giving them this outing, in the manner of giving crying children a lollipop?

Is 'Kambli is there for Tendulkar' the excuse? That doesn't work -- Tendulkar is replaced by Ramesh.

There really is no logical reason for this move -- but as Rohan Chandran mentioned on ICQ while we were discussing this, who said the selectors have to make sense?

One thing is for sure -- the selectors have mucked up a golden opportunity to get the World Cup squad together, as a unit. A chance to get them playing as a team, finding their feet together.

The World Cup squad, the Sharjah squad -- what do you make of it?


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