Challenger Trophy 2006 - India Red

Reds: Venugopal Rao (capt), Gautham Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, S Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Tejinder Pal Singh, Dinesh Karthik (wk), VRV Singh, Sreesanth, Ramesh Powar, Zaheer Khan, Murali Kartik, C Raghu. Coach: Robin Singh

It was called "Alchemist India A" (the players were all following their dreams, but the name had nothing to do with Paul Coelho's book) last year. The selectors obviously see some real potential in Venugopal Rao's leadership skills, for he has been the India A captain for a while now. He lost the middle order fringe spot in the national squad to Dinesh Mongia and the fact that Mongia did well in Malaysia would be playing on his mind.

Gambhir and Uthappa are the openers. Rao, Dinesh Karthik, Badrinath, the highly talented Rohit Sharma and the two all-rounders (Tejinder Pal Singh and Chandrasekhar Raghu) form a very solid middle-order pool to choose from. Tej Pal did really well for India A in the Top-End Series, while Raghu notched up a couple of classy hundreds in last season's Ranji ODI tournament. Badrinath has had many chances at this level and it is definitely time he makes these opportunities count. Dinesh Karthik is probably the best keeper in the country and he would probably be keen on showing his prowess with the bat, but I guess he realizes that it would require a super-human effort to displace Dhoni from the Indian team any time soon. Rohit Sharma's performances in the series would be keenly followed by the selectors, as there are serious indications that he might be the real answer to the national team's recent middle-order woes.

Zaheer Khan is back and he would probably get to share the new-ball with Sreesanth. Sreesanth himself would be keen on proving a point or two after being snubbed for the ICC tournament. VRV Singh is the third seamer and he is a good addition to the healthy competition among the seamers within the team. Ramesh Powar and Murali Karthik are the main spinners while Tej Pal, Raghu, Rao and Gambhir can all bowl some slow stuff.

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