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    Euro-Asia 'A' Cup: More of Asia, Less of Euro

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006
    India 'A' and 5 other A sides from Europe and Asia (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Holland, UAE and Ireland) are scheduled to play in the Euro-Asia 'A' tournament in Abu Dhabi from April 22 to May 5. India, Pakistan and Holland are pooled together in one group while the remaining teams form the second pool.

    Irrespective of the quality of the opposition, the Indian team selected for this tournament seems to be a fairly formidable side.

    Team: Y. Venugopal Rao (captain), Robin Uthappa, Shikhar Dhawan, Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan, S. Badrinath, Avishek Jhunjhunwala, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Shib Shankar Paul, Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Rudra Pratap Singh, VRV Singh, Piyush Chawla.

    Rao, Robin and RP Singh are in the senior side which is scheduled to play against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi on April 18 and 19. They will probably get to have some additional shopping time as they would have to stay back for this second string challenge.

    Openers: Robin, Dhawan and Vidyut
    Good to see the selectors stick to these players instead of being tempted to draft in someone like Pujara. Only two of them would probably be in the starting XI and Vidyut might be the one to miss out.

    Middle Order: Rao, Badri, Avishek, Rohit, Sodhi
    Sodhi gets a deserved second (third, fourth whatever) look after his good performances in the domestic ODIs this season. I'm excited about Avishek and would be interested in seeing how he fares in this tournament. He is touted to be the next Bengal hero and given Ganguly's chances at staging a comeback, young JhunJhunWala is Bengal's only hope. Rohit has been growing from strength to strength after the under-19 world cup (has left the likes of Pujara and Dhiman way behind) and is another exciting talent worth investing in. Rao is the skipper and if he doesn't get to play any international cricket in the next 15 days, he would be keen on putting on an impressive show. Badri has started featuring regularly in these A sides and he should start cashing in on these opportunities.

    Wicket-Keeper: Dinesh Karthik
    The wicket-keeper slot for the A sides seems to have become a sort of lottery between Parthiv and Dinesh these days. I don't think Karthik got the nod because of his middle-east connections (his dad works used to work somewhere in the middle-east)

    Seamers: Paul, RP and VRV
    The usual suspects. I would have preferred someone else, Nabi maybe, instead of RP Singh. RP is a regular fixture in the senior squad (though he hasn't been a regular in the XI lately) and it would have been nice to try someone else out.

    Spinners: Jadeja (left-arm orthodox) and Piyush (leg-spin)
    Both of them played in the under-19 world cup earlier this year (with Piyush going on to make his test debut) and they are both quite adept with the bat as well.

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    Slowest dance down the pitch

    Monday, April 03, 2006
    The Bolero is considered to be the slowest of all latin dances. This shot by Alan Border should rank as it's cricket equivalent.

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    Robin comes in for Gautam

    Robin Uthappa, one of the stars (along with Raina and Dhawan) of the 2004 under-19 world cup has been drafted into the ODI side in place of Gautam Gambhir. Robin was very impressive in the Challenger Series late last year where he scored a 78 ball century and that particular innings seems to have catapulted him into the top fringes. Given the indifferent form of Sehwag and Kaif, Robin might get a chance to play in the very next game (I would rather have Rao in place of Kaif).

    Gambhir has himself to blame for being left out. He went past 20 in each of his last 4 innings without going onto make a big score. One fifty there and he would have still been a part of this ODI setup. With the countdown having started for the World Cup (and having already lost his test spot to Jaffer), he would have to do something really special to inch his way back into the national team.

    Meanwhile, Kaif continues to be part of the team's plans inspite of making just 17 runs in his last eight games. He did make a century in the warm-up game and his team has backed him well in these tough times, but his luck and the good-will might just not last long enough. He is supposed to be one of those guys who goes and apologises personally to every member in the team for letting them down after every personal failure of his. But without enough runs on the board, apologizing might just not cut it anymore.

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