India’s defeat in Nagpur had an event which occurred probably after a gap of 3 Olympics and one Ashes. We had two middle order batsmen making their debut in a single match after Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid did so in 1996. While selection of Badrinath was considered to be well earned, Saha can easily find his name in the list of most controversial selections in Indian team. Here are a few of those which I can remember.
Noel David – When news of Noel David replacing injured Sreenath came out, Noel David was surprised to see the coincidence– India had a pace bowler hidden somewhere with his name who was to replace Sreenath during India’s tour to Windies. This might have been the first time in history of cricket that a pace bowler and an off spinner shared the same name, state and face also. But it was not to be. Noel David was shocked to see that he himself was Sreenath’s replacement. It was realized later that his off spin did not replace Sreenath’s medium pace bowling but he was drafted in as an acrobatic fielder to replace Sreenath’s brand of fielding. Some say he was sent because selectors saw his photograph and misunderstood him for David Johnson, another medium pacer, and sent his profile to the press. Incidentally selectors were given negatives of the photographs to select. Some say he was selected so that he could teach Venketesh Prasad, another off spinner in the side, how to bowl a little faster. Some say he was never selected. He was going to North America, where he is settled these days, but due to bad weather his flight landed in South America. As soon as he got down from the flight, he was directed by Indian embassy to team India as it was in desperate need of anyone who had good enough shoulder to roll his arm over. He did reasonably well in the opportunities given to him but was soon deserted. Anyhow, he remains the strangest selection ever. If Anil Sharma had chosen AK Hangal to play the lead role in Gadar – Ek Prem Katha, may be it had been more credible selection.
Sameer Dighe – During 90s when India was playing Pakistan in an exhibition match somewhere in Middle East, commentator Henry Blofeld kept jumping up and down every time Sachin hit a six. He did it 7 or 8 times only to realize the batsman who was hitting all these sixes was not Sachin but it was Sameer Dighe. Sachin had got out earlier and Blofeld had explained his dismissal on air – “That is out. Another ordinary shot. But that is what you expect from a tail ender”. He apologised soon “Actually Mr. Dighe and Mr. Tendulkar look quite same so I got confused”. Few years later, during India’s tour to Australia when only Sachin looked like a batsman capable enough to put bat to ball, selectors drafted in Sameer Dighe and thought – may be he can do a Henry Blofeld to Australians too.
Dighe, while writing his retirement speech, got his selection call, googled to find out how many other cricketers in India played in the name of Sameer Dighe, checked with BCCI if he was selected as a player or as a liaison officer to the team but couldn’t believe he had actually made it to the team till he made his debut. In one of the matches, having been sent as a pinch hitter, he scored 3 off 30 odd balls. However, his claim to fame came in 2001 when he scored crucial 20 runs to win the series decider in Chennai against Australia. However, his claim was short-lived and lost to the likes of Patels and Ratras.
Sourav Ganguly – For a period of four years I kept reading Azharuddin’s stand in Cricket Samrat, my cricinfo in 90s, - “We need an all rounder in the side. Bengal has an all rounder named Ganguly but he is not good enough to play for India” There were rumours that Azhar had some personal grudges against players of Bengal. I found it difficult to believe as the ground which gave Azharuddin his first and second life line was located in Kolkata. However another player form Bengal, Subroto Banerjee who did reasonably against Australia in 1991-92 also never played for India.
So when Ganguly was selected for India’s tour to England in 1996, under the same captain, rumours were that it was done to kill above mentioned rumours. But his selection was hugely controversial. It was alleged that he made it to Indian team because of his family’s links with top bosses in BCCI. One of the big mouths said, I read it somewhere, - “Selectors took his trials in nets. Even at the nets, he was badly beaten till 5th ball of the over and got out on 6th. The bowler was just medium pace”. But Ganguly went to England. Sunil Gavaskar made a very logical comment – “If some one has been selected to play, no point bashing him now. It will only kill his confidence. Let’s support him now”. Ganguly made his debut in Lords and rest is history.
Wriddhiman Saha – The latest episode is very much fresh. Some say it was Dhoni’s attempt to kill one of his competitors. Some say SRK had a role in his selection so that he could sell the tickets of MNIK to South Africans. As expected, he was dropped after the first test and he can very well announce his retirement from international cricket now as he may never get another chance.
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