Sachin Tendulkar will once again be the hot topic for the national selectors, who are meeting at the Cricket Centre here on Sunday to pick the Indian team for the two Twenty20 matches and three One-Day Internationals against Pakistan.
After he notched up his 100th international century against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium at Mirpur, and followed it up with a 52 against Pakistan, Tendulkar was not part of India’s 4-1 series win against Sri Lanka in last July-August. In fact after India’s ICC World Cup win, he has missed 25 ODIs. But he played in seven matches of the Commonwealth Bank Tri-series in Australia in February-March last.
Under the circumstances one would not expect Tendulkar to be part of the three-match ODI series against Pakistan and even for the five-match series against England.
But with so much suspense around his future plans, the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the national selection committee would have received some hints from him about the ODI series against Pakistan and England.
Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Suresh Raina, M.S. Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, R. Ashwin, Zaheer Khan and Ashoke Dinda figured in the last ODI against Sri Lanka played at the Pallekele International Stadium on August 4.
Virender Sehwag, Pragyan Ojha, Rahul Sharma and Umesh Yadav were also part of the five-match series.
Tiwary and Yadav are on the injured list and hence would not be available for selection and same is the status of Irfan Pathan, who has not played since sustaining a knee injury after the first Ranji Trophy match against Karnataka in November. It’s unlikely that the selectors would recall leg-spinner Rahul Sharma.
Left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan is in Indore playing for Mumbai in the Ranji league match against Madhya Pradesh and so he would not be picked at least for the two T20 matches to be played at Bangalore on December 25 and Ahmedabad on December 28.
It has to be seen whether the selectors would risk playing Zaheer in any of the ODIs before the four-Test series against Australia next year, especially not knowing how long Yadav will be under rehabilitation for his lower back ailment.
Sehwag may return
Sehwag, who opted out of the two T20 matches against England, is expected to return to the T20 and ODI squads, while Yuvraj Singh and Ravindra Jadeja are certainties. Recently Cheteshwar Pujara said he had the ability to excel in limited-over matches, but it would be interesting to see how the selectors respond.
The selectors have given indications of their willingness to bring in changes by picking batsman Ambati Rayudu, all-rounder Bhuvneshwar Kumar and medium-pacer Parvinder Awana for the Twenty20 matches against England. They also picked Abhimanyu Mithun for the injured R. Vinay Kumar.
The basket is virtually empty when it comes to the bowling department and the selectors may have to bank on the performances in the Ranji Trophy.
Notable among the seamers are India under-19 and Punjab’s Sandeep Sharma (Punjab), Madhya Pradesh’s Ishwar Pandey and India ‘A’ and Bengal’s Shami Ahmed. Left-arm spinners Jharkhand’s Shahbaz Ahmed, Gujarat’s Rakesh Dhruv and off-spinners Jharkhand’s Sunny Gupta and Jammu & Kashmir’s Parvez Rassol figure in the highest wicket-takers’ list. And Harbhajan Singh too should be in the mix.
Picking the team for the Twenty20s should not be much of a headache; but for the ODIs, it could just be.