Apart from Sachin Tendulkar’s final two Tests, India’s squad for the home series against West Indies will be a window for some players to seal their place for the upcoming away tours to South Africa and New Zealand. Abhijit Banare analyses India’s squad.
The India squad for West Indies series was announced on Thursday with all the focus on Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement. There have been some expected inclusions and some unexpected exclusions. The biggest names to be included are Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. The biggest names to miss out are Zaheer Khan and Suresh Raina. Let us have a look at the squad by breaking it up into three parts — batting, seam/pace bowling and spin bowling.
As always India’s batting appears rock solid. After a long while Rohit has been selected in the Test squad and is in contention for making his debut. The elegant batsman has been in sublime form this year in the limited formats of the game. With some sparkling knocks in the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) 2013 for Mumbai Indians, he has continued his form onto the One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia. He led India’s record chase of 360 against the Aussies in the second ODI in Jaipur as well.
With Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, India’s No 3 and No 5 slots remain intact with the Master Blaster coming in at No 4. The challenge will be about the opening slot. With Rohit looking good to open across formats, the conundrum will be in giving Murali Vijay an extended run or allow the man in form to go ahead and partner Shikhar Dhawan, who also has been in great form. However, what can help Rohit in the race will be his maturity in shaping an innings. Tests are all about having the right temperament. During the ongoing ODI series against Australia, he has showed enough signs of playing a matured role than playing a rash shot and losing his wicket, like earlier in his career.
Suresh Raina will have to wait for his opportunities. With two more additions to the list of being dismissed by short balls in the current ODI series against Australia, Raina has provided adequate reasons for selectors to feel uncomfortable about including him. Comeback man Yuvraj Singh also misses the cut and one wonders whether he will ever get to play another Test for India. Rahane’s gritty innings for Mumbai against Haryana at Lahli might have helped him sneak into the squad. However, the challenge continues to be the same for the young Mumbai batsman; whether selection into the squad gets converted into an opportunity to play in the starting XI.
And India will be led by the indomitable MS Dhoni, whose form also has been very good of late.
In the fast bowling line-up, it was a surprise that Ishant Sharma has been included in the series considering his low form and confidence. There were talks of a lean and fit Zaheer in line for a comeback after having performed well for India A as well. But with a long season for Mumbai ahead of him, the experienced pacer has all the opportunities to force his way back into the team. With South Africa and New Zealand having favourable conditions for swing bowlers, the selectors will be delighted to see Zaheer strike form in the current domestic season.
Umesh Yadav has regained his spot in the team alongside an impressive Shami Ahmed, who gave the Australians some hard time in the abandoned fifth ODI at Ranchi. The pacer from West Bengal will be eager to sneak into the playing XI. And his debut looks brighted with only Bhuvneshwar Kumar assured of his spot. Looking at Ishant’s form, the chances for the other two pacers are pretty high.
Among spinners, Amit Mishra managed to find his place alongside Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin — the usual spin options for India in Tests. With the exclusion of Ravindra Jadeja due to an injury Mishra might finally get an opportunity to use his form and perform well. In home conditions, with plenty of dependence on spin, India are likely to go with two spinners. It would be interesting to see whether Dhoni opts for an off-spin leg-spin combination or goes for two off-spinners in the form of Ojha and Ashwin.
Overall it’s a strong side and has enough power to clinch the two Tests against the Caribbean team. However, the results won’t matter as long as the man in spotlight — Sachin Tendulkar performs well.
(Abhijit Banareis a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed onTwitterandblog)