Ganguly gets lifeline

Mumbai, October 1:

Indian batsman Sourav Ganguly was today given a chance to extend his international career when he was named in the squad for the first two Tests against Australia.

The left-hander, 36, was under pressure to retain his berth after making a meagre 96 in a three-Test series in Sri Lanka recently. But India’s new selection panel kept faith in senior players for initial matches. Speculation over Ganguly’s Test place arose recently after he was ignored for the Irani Cup domestic match, which was regarded as a trial game for the Australian series. He has averaged 31.73 in 20 Tests against Australia with just one century, below his overall average of 41.74.

The four-Test series opens in Bangalore on October 9, with the remaining matches to be played in Mohali, New Delhi and Nagpur. The squad for the last two Tests will be announced later.

Ganguly is India’s most successful Test captain with 21 wins in 49 matches. He is also a prolific scorer, clocking up 6,888 runs in 109 Tests with 15 centuries, and 11,363 runs in 311 one-day internationals with 22 hundreds.

Ageing stars Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Venkatsai Laxman also felt the

heat after their below-par performances in Sri Lanka, but all of them retained their places. Middle-order batsman Subramanim Badrinath and leg-spinner Amit Mishra were the newcomers in the 15-man Test squad.

Badrinath, a prolific run-scorer in domestic cricket, made his one-day debut in Sri Lanka as a replacement for injured Tendulkar, while Mishra has so far figured in three ODIs — all in 2003. But Mishra is unlikely to be named in the playing eleven as India look set to play with their frontline spinners, Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni returned to the squad after opting out of the Sri Lanka series due to fatigue. Australia clinched a four-Test series 2-1 on their last tour in 2004, their first triumph in India for 35 years.

Squad for first two Tests: Anil Kumble (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Venkatsai Laxman, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Rudra Pratap Singh, Subramaniam Badrinath, Amit Mishra.