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Friday, February 24, 2006


It's official.

Embattled, controversial, former Indian Captain Saurav Ganguly is out. The beginnings trace their roots to some e-mails some moons ago. Since then the pendulum swings, the eternal politics at work, saw him back in the Indian squad - that too against Pakistan.

However, brave the selectors, bending to the mounting protests and pressure was apparent. So as I look at the news this morning, I laud what certainly looks like the beginning of a brave new era.

To his credit, there is no denying that Ganguly has done his bit for Indian cricket. Though as that oft-repeated saying goes, all good things must come to an end. In his case, it was simply unfortunate that the stand-off with Greg Chappell had to take so many undertones - most of them ugly.

Speaking of Chappell, the man has shown he means business. Team India has gone beyond the customary huddles to actually win matches. That too in Pakistan.

And the Chappell mark is everywhere in the Indian squad announced for the first Test against England.

Banking on youth, the coach and the selectors are clearly setting their sights on next year's World Cup and beyond.

India's formidable middle-order led by Sachin Tendulkar had remained untouched for a decade. Crossing the first big hurdle - Ganguly's removal, shows the selectors are finally in a mood for change should players fail to perform in the days ahead.

How else would one explain moves like these:
- In addition to the former skipper, the selectors also dropped pacemen Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan. Taking their place, are seamers Vikram Rajvir Singh and S. Sreesanth, who was impressive in his performance against Pakistan.

- One-day batsman Suresh Raina has also been picked.

- All eyes though will be on teenage leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. He made headlines last year by removing Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni in a domestic one-day tournament. Then won heaps of praise after helping Uttar Pradesh clinch their maiden Ranji Trophy. Then went on to make news again with a four wicket haul for eight in the under-19 World Cup final defeat against Pakistan.

These are brave new choices, ones that deserve to be applauded. They recognise talent among the youth who need to be spotted and groomed to take Team India to greater heights, they cast the net wider and are daring with a capital D.