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Bhajji's axing is a bold move by Cheeka & Co.

Source : COLUMNS
Last Updated: Sat, Oct 01, 2011 05:01 hrs

​Ring out the old, ring in the new. That's the adage to be followed in the wake of a disastrous series and it is good to see the Kris Srikkanth led selection committee adopt this approach. Perhaps their hand has been forced in the wake of injuries to key senior players but it is heartening to see the inclusion of fresh young faces in the ODI squad to face England later this month. And if on the way a few regular players are dropped so be it.

In this context it must be said that the axing of Harbhajan Singh is a bold move. No player, however great he may be, should take his place for granted and the veteran off spinner has been going through a lean period for some time now.



One is sure the last has not been heard of Harbhajan. The doughty, combative sardar is bound to fight his way back for he still has much to offer by way of skill and experience but a spell on the sidelines to recharge his batteries could just be the kind of motivation he requires.

Also, when it concerns the fast bowling department the selectors have done well to look ahead. In the absence of a couple of regulars thanks to injuries, they have not fallen back on old hands like RP Singh, Ashish Nehra or S Sreesanth but have given the go ahead to the young quartet of Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar and S Aravind.

There must be a big question mark over the future of Zaheer Khan, who is 33, and Ishant Sharma, who is injury prone. This being the case, the time to try out the impressive line-up of young pacemen available is now. That said, it is to be hoped that Aaron will be give his due and not asked to warm the bench like he was forced to do in England. He is the brightest of the pace bowling prospects and it is time he is unleashed on the opposition.

I am particularly pleased with the inclusion of Rahul Sharma. I am convinced that he is the next best thing to happen to Indian cricket as far as spin bowling is concerned. One must be careful in assessing how good a player is based on performances in the IPL but at the risk of being proved wrong, I am willing to stick my neck out and predict that Rahul will make it big now that he has forced himself into the Indian ODI squad.

The tall 24-year-old Jalandhar born leg spinner is suddenly a much talked about cricketer. He shot into prominence in this year's IPL, bagging 16 wickets for a struggling Pune Warriors team with a miserly economy rate of 5.46 which was the best among bowlers who have played more than five matches.

But this was not the only thing going for him. He was able to extract both turn and bounce and, what's more, was remarkably accurate. Creating an indelible impression with his subtle bowling skills, he was regarded as having an outside chance of making the squad for the Caribbean in June.

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He just missed out but there was never any doubt in his mind that his time would come. And now that it has, he is not the kind to let go this opportunity. Talented and ambitious, Rahul is very keen on making a mark on the game. And given the English batsmen's traditional discomfiture against leg spin, he should straightaway be in the playing eleven and not allowed to languish on the bench.

In the absence of injured seniors like Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag, there are no surprises in the batting line-up. The quintet of Gautam Gambhir, Parthiv Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina are still the best in the business with their ideal blend of youth and experience.

Skipper Dhoni can always be expected to add his mite while Manoj Tiwari deserves a place as the extra batsman. On his showing in England, few will deny Ravindra Jadeja a slot as the utility man. Ravichandran Ashwin now carries more responsibility in the absence of Harbhajan but the competitive off spinner from Tamil Nadu has the skill and temperament to succeed.

A fresh beginning - that's what the selectors have made in the wake of the debacle in England. As Srikkanth himself put it succinctly, "there are a lot of fresh faces and we want to see how the youngsters perform. The team has been hit by injuries to some senior cricketers but this provides an opportunity for the youngsters players to perform well." The youngsters have been given the stage on which to parade their talent. It is now up to them to repay the confidence invested in them by the selectors.

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