Chawla the sign of India's driving ambition
So, India have declared their hand and what an adventure it appears to herald. The squad for the First Test not only includes four uncapped players but also excludes the former captain and cause célèbre, Sourav Ganguly.
There can be no clearer message: a decisive break with the past and a rampant charge into the future. With these15 for Nagpur, the selectors have laid down a quite deliberate policy.
"Ganguly's record has been outstanding, but you have to make a decision for the country and that's why the youngsters have been given this opportunity," said Kiran More, the chairman of selectors. "We have to start grooming for the future because it's going to take some time. It's not just about batting and bowling, these selections are based on youth and add so much to the fielding."
It is difficult not to see the hand of Greg Chappell at work. He had a much-publicised spat with Ganguly last year when the latter was still the official captain. Ganguly, India's longest serving and in many ways most successful captain, was eased out of the job, but not the team.
He had an inauspicious tour of Pakistan as a batsman last month when he was omitted from one match, did not have an innings in another and made two thirties in an ignominious defeat in Karachi. But in his absence India came back wonderfully to win the one-day series when the fielding was a key difference between the sides.
At 35 and never having been the most alert of fielders, Ganguly's days were numbered. Nor will there be any way back for the man who played 88 Tests, was captain in 49 and made a century at Lord's on his debut in 1996. "There was no split to leave him out," said More. "The decision was taken by the captain and coach as well. This committee has definitely decided thank you very much, it's all very well. We look forward."
More, with Chappell's backing, has seized the opportunity to go a stage further. The selection for Nagpur borders on the revolutionary. The new quartet will not all make the XI and all could be omitted on the morning of the match. But the committee see something in them all, particularly the 17-year-old leg-spinner Piyush Chawla about whom More was effusive.
"He had a fantastic domestic season and played in the finals for Uttar Pradesh when he was outstanding in helping them to their first championship win for 15 years," said More. "He's a very special talent who also bowled Sachin Tendulkar with a googly and got out Yuvraj Sungh in a one-day match. He might not play but he's a tough guy, a tremendous talent and we want to carry him about to show him Test cricket." Barely two weeks ago, Chawla was playing in the Under-19 World Cup final against Pakistan, when his 4 for 8 which reduced the opposition to 109 all out and gritty unbeaten 25 were still insufficient to win.
The indubitably talented 19-year-old batsman, Suresh Raina, who made runs against England in Baroda on Friday, and the fast bowlers Sreesanth and Vikram Singh are the others not to have played Test cricket. More and Chappell have hedged their bets neatly. While there is still inexperience in the rest of the squad, with the likes of the left-arm seamer RP Singh (two Tests) and Mohindra Singh Dhoni (six), the new pin-up boy of Indian cricket, there are still the formidable old hands.
The selection merely extends a period of dramatic change in Indian cricket. Last December, elections to the board ended the long reign of influence of Jagmohan Dalmiya. The new men in charge have already flexed their muscles in world terms by selling their television rights for $612m and telling other countries who they might like and like not to play and how often.
Somehow, More survived the night of long knives as selectors' chairman but he clearly felt the wind of change. There could be more gusts yet. Yuvraj Singh is out of the First Test but More patently envisages him as the next captain. "He has been outstanding for the last two seasons." India mean business as never before.
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