The four-Test series against Australia to be played at Chennai, Hyderabad, Mohali and Delhi will bring down the curtain on a long home international season. It will mark the completion of a major assignment for the new selection committee that took charge last September.
For obvious reasons, the 1-2 defeat against England in the four Test series, and in particular the inability of the senior players to ward off dangers posed by the spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar from the Mumbai Test onwards disappointed the fans.
It was a series that stayed riveted on skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s frequent demand to prepare turning tracks to benefit Pragyan Ojha, Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh, who played his 99th Test at the Wankhede Stadium, but was not considered for selection thereafter for the third Test at Kolkata. The spinners in the squad for the last Test against England at Nagpur were Ashwin, Ojha, leg-spinner Piyush Chawla and Ravindra Jadeja.
The Indian captain received flak for his fixation with turning tracks; it even vitiated the lead up to the third Test at Kolkata, but there were some who said Dhoni was right in arguing that he did not have a pair of fit fast bowlers to start the attack.
Umesh Yadav went down after the Motera Test and Zaheer Khan was dropped after the Kolkata Test. Ishant Sharma played two Tests, bowled 72 overs, picked up four wickets and there are already doubts if he would be fit for the first Test, although he twice used the twitter medium to confirm that all his fine with him, he’s training and that he’s going to Australia only to get insoles and avoid the rumours.
While the fast bowling selection issue has been an irritant for successive selection committees, they have also not been convinced with Yuvraj Singh’s scores of 74, 0, 8, 32, 11 against England. His replacement Ravindra Jadeja made 12 and took three wickets at Nagpur.
Even an opener has not come up with substantial effort to really force his way in. M. Vijay was selected as a third opener against England and should hold that position in the squad. It was made known by the Chairman of the selection committee Sandeep Patil that Ajinkya Rahane was considered as a middle order. Will the same committee retain him?
Others in contention following the Twenty20 and ODI series against Pakistan and England are Suresh Raina (he played the two Test series against New Zealand), Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary (he returned to action in the Irani Cup match).
Rohit, Tiwary and Rahane, are in the India ‘A’ team for the two-day warm-up game against Australia at Chennai from Feb. 16 to 18 and Ambati Rayudu, Mandeep Singh and Kedar Jadhav are in the Board President’s XI team for the two-day warm up against Australia on Feb. 12 and 13.
Though there are the players the selectors will be looking at for the future, they will be meeting here on Sunday to pick the squad for the Test series starting on Feb. 22 and hence the choice may narrow to a small clutch of players like Rahane, Raina, Rohit Sharma and Tiwary.
Apart from Ishant, there’s a large group in Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, S. Sreesanth, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ishwar Pandey (he played the warm-up game against England), Dhawal Kulkarni and Manpreet Gony who would be fit and available. Punjab’s Siddharth Kaul is another interesting prospect. But the composition of the squad will also depend on the nature of wickets that are likely to be prepared at Chepauk and Uppal.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh maybe considered only because of his success against Australia in India (81 of the 90 wickets).
Keywords: Australia's tour of India