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A lifeline for Indian star trio

A little over four months after the World Cup in the Caribbean turned sour, three of India’s prodigious talents gone awry return to the fold.

Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag have got a T20 WC shot in the arm that should resurrect their confidence and career.

They presented the bold new face of India’s future till recently but have been in the wilderness since the World Cup. Loss of form has seen them being dumped.

Harbhajan, it seemed, was bent on containing batsmen rather than taking wickets. Pathan wasn’t doing his primary job of getting the early breakthroughs, while Sehwag couldn’t invest enough time at the wicket to make his electric run-scoring ability really count.

However, after taking different routes towards finding a semblance of form, the three have been deemed fit enough to merit a recall to the Twenty20 team that contains the core of India’s next generation players.

Pathan, who is currently touring with the India A team has stated that he has found the rhythm after a session with Australian fast bowling legend Dennis Lillee at the MRF pace foundation.

Meanwhile, Harbhajan signed a county contract with Surrey and picked up enough wickets to keep himself in the headlines.

Reports from England said that he derived sufficient bounce and turn to ensure that very few batsmen played him comfortably.

Earlier, the Afro-Asian Cup in Bangalore and Chennai also allowed Harbhajan and Sehwag some much needed practice. However, the showing wasn’t enough to buy them a ticket to England.

What makes the Twenty20 World Cup a lifeline for the three is the fact that all of them have been ignored from the ODI squad for the seven matches against England that was also announced on Tuesday.

The selectors rewarded the triumphant Future Cup squad members and only dropped an out of form S Sreesanth, who was replaced by Munaf Patel.

In a T20 WC squad of 15, that includes rookies like Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa, the experience and the match-winning potential that Pathan, Harbhajan and Sehwag carry in their CVs must translate into on-field performances.

In South Africa, there will be little margin for error. The speed at which Twenty20 is played will provide little scope for a comeback. It is a format where one bad over could decide the outcome of the game.

Moreover, there will be enough competition from within the team. For Pathan, who is a reluctant all-rounder, Yusuf, his elder brother, could well steal the all-rounders’ spot.

RP Singh, who has matured as a left-arm swing bowler, as his performances in the Test series in England show, could pip Pathan again.

Harbhajan will have to vie with young leg-spinner Piyush Chawla as well as Yusuf, who is an off-spinner. Both Chawla and Yusuf are hard-hitting batsmen and quick-footed fielders. Sehwag too will feel the heat in the form of Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Karthik.

For India, the competition for places will hopefully bring the best out of the players and will even keep those who are performing well on their toes. For Pathan, Harbhajan and Sehwag there is no better way to stake a claim back into the one-day side by performing in the Twenty20 format that is widely considered as the future of the game.

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