Calcutta: Sourav Ganguly has never minced words. Neither as a player, nor now when he dons the commentator’s hat.
So it wasn’t a surprise when the former India captain said that dropping Gautam Gambhir from the squad for the first two Tests against Australia was a correct decision.
He in fact backed the selectors’ choice, the in-form Shikhar Dhawan, as one of the three openers in the squad.
“Gambhir wasn’t scoring runs… That’s why he has been dropped. Dhawan, on the other hand, has been amongst runs. So if you score, you will be in the team… And if you can’t, you won’t be considered.
“Now, Gambhir should try and get back among runs if he wants to return to the Indian team,” Sourav said on Monday, on the sidelines of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) working committee meeting.
Sourav said that the likes of Dhawan and Murali Vijay should make the most of the Australia series as tougher tests await later this season. “This is the platform for players like Vijay and Dhawan to make a mark and try and cement their places in the squad. In other words, this is a very good opportunity for them since India’s future assignments are far more tougher.”
Asked about India’s chances against Michael Clarke’s men, Sourav predicted that Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Co. are the favourites to win the series.
Both teams will miss key senior batsmen who have retired — Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman for India and Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey for Australia.
But the visitors’ weakness in the spin department would give the Indians a definite edge, Sourav said.
“Both India and Australia are going through a transitional phase… At the end of the day, though, the team that plays spin better will be on the winning side. However, Australia’s spin attack isn’t too strong. (Nathan) Lyon and (Xavier) Doherty aren’t as good as England’s Graeme Swann and (Monty) Panesar. The English spinners were far better,” Sourav said.
He, however, warned that the Indians should be on guard against Australia’s superior pace attack. “Australia have some quality pacers, who can certainly come in handy,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean that he belittled the Indian pace trio of Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashok Dinda.
“Both Bhuvneshwar and Ishant fared well in the recent ODIs (against England). Dinda, too, has been performing well. So at present, this is the best possible attack.
He also had some advice for statemate Dinda. “My advice to Dinda would be to just focus on accuracy,” he said.
Sourav welcomed the selectors’ decision to include Harbhajan Singh in the squad. But he wasn’t sure if the off-spinner, who is on the threshold of playing his 100th Test, will get a chance in the playing XI of the first Test, which begins in Chennai on February 22.
“It’s great to see Harbhajan back… He’s a world-class bowler and deserves a comeback… Whether he’ll play in the first Test depends entirely on Dhoni,” Sourav said.