NEW DELHI:Maharashtra pace bowler Munaf Patel's chances of joining the Indian team in Australia as its 17th member have almost ended, with chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar saying he is unaware of his whereabouts and fitness.
"I don't know anything about him," Vengsarkar told IANS by mobile phone when asked if he has received an SOS from the team management for rushing Munaf to Australia.
Patel, who was not picked for the tour down under owing to back spasms which forced him out of the third Test against Pakistan in Bangalore, was asked by the cricket board to prove his match fitness by playing in a couple of Ranji Trophy games.
But the lanky 24-year-old bowler is said to be untraceable by his side, Maharashtra.
Patel missed Maharashtra's previous two Ranji matches without intimating the state association. He has apparently been dropped for the match against Karnataka that started in Ratnagiri Tuesday on grounds.
Munaf is playing for Maharashtra as a professional.
When told that Munaf was not playing even in the ongoing match, Vengsarkar said: "I have no idea about it."
Another national selector, however, told IANS that the selection committee, while picking the side for the four-match Test series in Australia, had decided to send him as the 17th member of the team provided he proved his match-fitness.
"We had decided to send him as a 17th member provided he proved his match fitness in the Ranji Trophy. But it seems he is untraceable at the moment," the selector said.
"In fact, two of us selectors were supposed to go to Ratnagiri to watch him in action. Since he is not playing this match too, I guess he has been dropped," he said.
Media reports in Australia said on the eve of the Boxing Day Test that the team management had decided to request the board to send Munaf in time for the second Test, starting in Sydney Jan 2 in view of the thin pace attack.
With Zaheer Khan and Rudra Pratap Singh recovering from injuries and the two rookie fast bowlers Ishant Sharma and Pankaj Singh not experienced enough to be rushed into a major series like this.
At the team management meeting, bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad reportedly expressed concerns over the lack of a right-arm fast bowler as Zaheer, R.P. Singh and Irfan Pathan are all left-arm and the one-dimensional attack cannot be expected to rattle a strong Australian batting line-up.
Prasad was apparently of the opinion that Munaf will be an ideal bowler to join the forces with Zaheer and R.P. Singh as he is a bowler who hits the deck.
Munaf has 28 wickets from nine Tests with seven for 97 as his best match figures against England. He also has 32 wickets from 25 One-Day Internationals, but has a history of breaking down.
Vengsarkar was non-committal on the issue, but his colleague said that now there was no chance of Patel going to Australia.
The selector said: "Now, we can't send him, especially when he has not proved his match fitness. I have a feeling that he is hiding some injury."
However, the selectors are not in a position to accede to the team management's request as there is no way of judging Munaf's match-fitness.