Daily Archives: 17 October 2007

The Challenger Series and the “Big 3” conundrum

In between the conclusion of the current India-Australia ODI-T20 pyjama-festival and the beginning of the Pakistan series (which commences Nov 6), India has managed to squeeze in The Challenger series between some of the best talent available in the country. The Challeger Series for the N. K. P. Salve Trophy and the Irani Trophy normally signify the commencement of the domestic season in India.

This year, several of India’s best players are being rested in The Challenger Series. The players who are rested are Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh, Irfan Pathan, et al.

Given the big series coming up against Pakistan and Australia and also considering that they have been on the road alomst continually for over 6 months, one can understand the rationale for resting Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Dhoni, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh.

However, the case for resting the likes of Sreesanth, R. P. Singh Irfan Pathan is somewhat unclear!

Nevertheless, the teams are:

India Red:
Mohammad Kaif (capt), Karan Goel, Gautam Gambhir, Subramaniam Badrinath, Virat Kohli, Ravneet Ricky, Praveen Kumar, Mahesh Rawat (wk), Pragyan Ojha, Siddharth Trivedi, Ishant Sharma, Pinal Shah, Shrikant Munde, Paresh Patel.
Coach: Lalchand Rajput

India Blue:
Virender Sehwag (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Suresh Raina, Niraj Patel, Arjun Yadav, Joginder Sharma, Ramesh Powar, Amit Mishra, Yo Mahesh, Ranadeb Bose, Swapnil Asnodkar, Rakesh Dhurv, Saurabh Bandekar
Coach: Venkatesh Prasad

India Green:
Parthiv Patel (capt/wk), Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Murali Kartik, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Abhishek Nayar, Niranjan Behera, Iqbal Abdulla, Pankaj Singh, Munaf Patel, Gagandeep Singh, Srikkanth Anirudha , Satyajit Satbhai.
Coach: Praveen Amre

The series schedule is:
Oct 25: India Red v/s India Blue
Oct 26: India Green v/s India Red
Oct 27: India Green v/s India Blue
Oct 28: Final

It is also good that some of the young talent is being given a real run. The investment of faith in the leadership qualities of Virender Sehwag, Parthiv Patel — who appears to be in the batting form of his life — and Mohammed Kaif — perhaps the best India captain never to play long for India — is good to see! The teams also appear well-balanced and reasonable.

Interestingly — or perhaps along expected lines — V. V. S. Laxman does not feature.

The “Big 3” conundrum:
The resting of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly from the Challenger Series is a good move. My view is that the “Big 3” should also skip all the ODIs against Pakistan. If they do not do so voluntarily, perhaps the selectors should do so for them.

The Pakistan schedule is as follows:

Mon 5 Nov (ODI): Nehru Stadium, Guwahati
Thu 8 Nov (ODI-D/N): Punjab C.A. Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh
Sun 11 Nov (ODI): Green Park, Kanpur
Thu 15 Nov: (ODI-D/N): Captain Roop Singh Stadium, Gwalior
Sun 18 Nov: (ODI-D/N): Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur

The Test Schedule is as follows:
Thu 22 Nov to Mon 26 Nov: Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi
Fri 30 Nov to Tue 4 Dec: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Sat 8 Dec – Wed 12 Dec: M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore

If the “Big 3” skip the Pakistan ODIs, they will have the time between today (Oct 17) and 20 Nov to rest, recuperate and play for their State teams in the Ranji Trophy.

One feels that, keeping in mind the all important Tests against Pakistan and Australia (commencing on Boxing Day in Melbourne) Rahul Dravid, in particular, should excuse himself from the ODI party and play for Karnataka in a few Ranji Trophy games.

Indeed, this could be a workable strategy for Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar. Spending some quality time for Karnataka, West Bengal and Mumbai (respectively) would, I believe, be the way to go for them. Yes, there would be a temporary absence from the ODI scene for these three. But, with a view to strategic import, this would be the best outcome for India, one feels.

We need the big-3 to fire in a big way for these iconic series against the heavy weights.

So, if the Big 3 are rested from national duties between Oct 17 and Nov 22 what Ranji games could they possibly play?

– Sat 3 Nov – Tue 6 Nov: Group A – Mumbai v Karnataka
– Sat 3 Nov – Tue 6 Nov: Group B – Bengal v Hyderabad (VVS plays in this!)
– Thu 15 Nov – Sun 18 Nov: Group A – Karnataka v Himachal Pradesh
– Thu 15 Nov – Sun 18 Nov: Group B – Baroda v Bengal
– Thu 15 Nov – Sun 18 Nov: Group A – Tamil Nadu v Mumbai

Apart from the Karnataka Vs HP game, the rest will provide the “Big 3” with a more intense work-out than a series of meaningless pyjama outings!

But will the selectors have the courage to act in this manner?

— Mohan