All eyes will be on out-of-form VVS Laxman when the selectors meet at the Indian cricket board headquarters in Mumbai today to pick the squad for the two-Test against New Zealand starting August 23.
The veteran batsman is under the scanner after poor performances on tours to England (2011) and Australia (2011-12).
However, Kishen Rungta and Sambaran Banerjee, who were part of the selection committee when Laxman made his Test debut against South Africa at Motera, near Ahmedabad in 1996, want Krishnamachari Srikkanth & Co to stick with the wristy right-hander.
On merit and calibre
“On the basis of merit and calibre, he deserves a place in the Test squad. If we have to play our best team, then VVS Laxman has to be in it,” Rungta told MiD DAY from Jaipur yesterday.
When reminded him about his batting disappointments in England and Australia as well as fitness concerns, Rungta said: “Irrespective of everything, I would still back Laxman. He is still a good Test cricketer in spite of all fitness worries.”
On the last tour to Australia, which was considered to be Laxman’s favourite opponent, he managed to score only 155 at 19.38 in four Tests. He clearly failed to live up to his reputation, hitting only one half-century in eight innings.
Against England, Laxman was marginally better than Australia - 182 in four Tests. He scored two 50s — one in the second innings of the opening Test at Lord’s and the other in the first innings of the second Test at Trent Bridge.
One factor that might go in Laxman’s favour would be his last home engagement - against West Indies in which he scored 298 in three Tests averaging 99.33.
Banerjee, who also backed Laxman’s inclusion in the Test series against Kiwis, said the Indian team needs an experienced hand in the middle order to groom youngsters after the retirement of Rahul Dravid.
“He still has a lot to offer. He is a terrific player with a great record. It is important to have him in the team, in spite of failures in England and Australia because Dravid’s retirement has left a huge void in the middle order. We need Laxman who can groom youngsters like Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and others. Laxman can still deliver for another year or so,” said Kolkata-based Banerjee.
To groom youngsters
Rungta felt Laxman could be dropped if the selectors have a plan to groom a youngster. “In that case, Laxman will have to make way as this would be the right series to do so,” he said.
Banerjee had one request to make to Srikkanth & Co if they are planning to omit Laxman: “Please inform him before dropping. We need to show some respect.”