Santhakumaran Sreesanth has been handed a lifeline by the National cricket selection panel. The paceman has an opportunity to resurrect a promising career threatened by temperamental flare-ups and injuries.
The 26-year-old Sreesanth possesses a rare attribute — a natural outswinger. His wrist action and a wonderful seam position enhance his potent weapon.
But then, the paceman has often run into a truckload of trouble on the behavioural front. Consequently, he has lost focus and his bowling has suffered.
At his best, Sreesanth is a lively paceman with movement and thrust. His Test record — 50 wickets in 14 matches at a strike rate of 57.4 — is a creditable one. He last figured in a Test when India met South Africa at Kanpur in April 2008.
A rewarding stint with Warwickshire in the English county circuit — pace great Allan Donald guided Sreesanth in the Old Blighty — put him on course again. Now, Krishnamachari Srikkanth & Co. have given Sreesanth possibly his last chance.
The selection of Sreesanth in the Indian squad for the first two Tests — at Ahmedabad and Kanpur — against Sri Lanka also puts pressure on Ishant Sharma, seeking form to retain his place in the eleven. India is unlikely to play more than two specialist pacemen at home.
The experienced Zaheer Khan has, predictably, been picked after recovering from a shoulder injury; the left-armer is clearly the pace spearhead with 210 wickets in 65 Tests at 33.84.
His fitness concerns, in fact, have not actually resulted in Zaheer missing a Test. India last played a Test match against New Zealand in Wellington in April 2009 and the left-armer was a prominent part of the eleven.
The selectors have opted for an extra spinner in left-armer Pargyan Ojha ahead of an additional paceman which makes sense in the Indian conditions. There is no room for either Ashish Nehra or Munaf Patel.
Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra should pair up for the first Test. This spin pair buzzed against Australia at home last season but will be up against a bunch of sub-continental batsmen in familiar terrain.
The 15-member squad comprises eight batsmen including a back-up opener in M. Vijay, wicket-keeper batsman M.S. Dhoni, three pacemen and three spinners. The team misses a conventional all-rounder.
S. Badrinath has been rewarded for his commitment and consistency. And Vijay is an investment for the future. The squad appears a good mix.