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Ganguly likely for second Test

Prem Panicker

23 November 1996

Chairman of the national selectors announced that Saurav Ganguly, if fit, will replace medium pacer David Johnson in the Indian side for the second Test against South Africa beginning at the Eden Gardens, Calcutta, on Wednesday November 27.

Desai, however, would not commit to the question of whose place Ganguly would take in the playing eleven, leaving the field wide open for the game of ``pick your side'', that all commentators - yours truly being no exception - like to indulge in.

The South African camp, for its part, has announced that Herschelle Gibbs is likely to play the second Test, replacing the injured Jonty Rhodes. The Management has also called for John Simmons to fly out from South Africa, again in place of Rhodes who is expected to recover only in time for the third Test.

Meanwhile, the Indian 14 reads as follows: Tendulkar, Kumble, Mongia, Dravid, Azharuddin, Laxman, Joshi, Srinath, Prasad, Hirwani, Kapoor, Manjrekar, Dharmani, Johnson/Ganguly.

So what lineup are we looking at, here?

Assuming that Ganguly passes the scheduled fitness test on the day before the game, logic indicates that he will play in the opener's slot.

Azharuddin, Tendulkar, Dravid, Kumble, Mongia, Joshi, Srinath and Prasad are sure to play. And again, India is pretty sure to go in to the game with three spinners, the choice being between Kapoor and Hirwani. Considering that Tendulkar did not call on Hirwani to bowl even a single over in the South African second innings at Ahmedabad - rightly so, as the leg spinner was none too impressive in the first innings - the chances are Kapoor will get the nod.

That makes ten players who are sure of their places. And after his innings of 51 in the second innings - an effort that, both Sachin Tendulkar and Hansie Cronje said after the match, was what had brought India back into the game - debutant V V S Laxman would appear to have picked himself automatically as the 11th man.

Which, by default, leaves out Sanjay Manjrekar - who, despite looking totally in control in both his essays, failed to put up enough runs on the board to take his place for granted.

And if the team thus selects itself, then the batting order becomes equally interesting. Mongia's promotion to open was shown up as sheer folly by the S'African pace bowlers - the Indian keeper is gutsy, sure, but against top quality pace bowlers operating with a new ball, a modicum of technique is needed. And this, Mongia lacks, especially outside the off stump.

And that brings up an interesting possibility. V V S Laxman is an opener by inclination. Very compact, very much in the Dravid mould, very easy on either front or back foot.

A very strong case can definitely be made, thus, for Laxman and Ganguly going out to open. The left right combination is a plus point, the fact that both batsmen are technically competent is the other.

And if you go with that, then the rest of the line up suggests itself. Dravid at three, followed by Tendulkar, Azharuddin, Joshi, Mongia, Srinath, Kumble, Kapoor and Prasad.

Now look at that line up again, and try answering this - could this be the team of the future we have been talking about?

Source: Rediff On The NeT
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:07