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A question of action

BOWLING actions are once again in the news following the dropping of India's teenage off-spinner Harbhajan Singh from the Indian team for the upcoming mini World Cup in Bangladesh.

Adverse reports about his bowling action by match referees Peter van der Merwe of South Africa and Ranjan Madugalle of Sri Lanka led to the ICC asking for the 19-year-old to be left out of the national team until he undergoes "corrective action".

The ICC's throwing committee, chaired by West Indian Clyde Walcott, recommended the off-spinner's omission. Van der Merwe was match referee for India's home series against Australia; Harbhajan made his debut in that series. Madugalle supervised the three-nation one-day series in May against Kenya and Bangladesh.

Harbhajan is the second Indian off-spinner after Rajesh Chauhan to be pulled up for his bowling action. Neither of them has been called for throwing by an umpire, a fate that has befallen Sri Lanka's Muthiah Muralitharan. Harbhajan's place in the 14-man squad for the mini World Cup has been taken by Delhi off-spinner Nikhil Chopra.

But that is not the only talking point as far as the selected team goes. It is surprising to find V.V.S. Laxman still commanding a position in the squad despite not having had the best of records in recent times (and one is being charitable in putting it in this manner).

It would appear that regional factors have come into play; on figures alone, Laxman would struggle to make even a second string team right now. But then, Indian cricket is known for regional kingmakers and there is no shortage of cases to illustrate this.

Given the fact that this tournament is merely being played to raise funds for the ICC, it would have been good to see some new faces in the squad, rather than just established players. Such is, sadly, not the case. Amay Khurasiya could have been given a go; his showing for India A against Australia and also during the Commonwealth Games was commendable. Unfortunately, he happens to be from Madhya Pradesh and presumably does not have a sugar daddy.

With these trends continuing in Indian cricket, it would not surprise me one bit if Sachin Tendulkar does not come back as skipper -- something which a lot of people assume will happen automatically, as soon as Mohammed Azharuddin calls it a day. In fact, I rather fancy the chances of a guy named Ganguly...

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