Naman Ojha (Left), Lokesh Rahul recently toured Australia with the India A team and did well © Getty Images © PIT
Naman Ojha (Left), Lokesh Rahul (above) recently toured Australia with the India A team and did well © Getty Images © PIT

Playing in Australia has never been easy for teams from the subcontinent, and India’s upcoming tour of Australia 2014-15 could be a proverbial ‘make or break’ one for the tourists. A rigorous Test series will be followed by a triangular series also featuring England, following which the Indian team would then be heading into the ICC World Cup 2015. Devarchit Varma analyses the Indian squad for the four Tests, and weighs up the Indian squad studded with likes of KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Karn Sharma and Naman Ojha.

India‘s tour of England 2014-15 has some eerie similarities with their last tour Down Under. Back then, the Indian selectors had named a 17-member squad for the four Tests, and were coming off an England tour wherein they lost many players to injuries and did not have enough personnel to challenge the hosts in the four Tests. However, the tour of Australia later that year did not see any of the Indian players being ruled out due to injuries, but still they were blanked 4-0.

As India gear up to take on Australia in the four-match series on the tour of 2014-15, starting December 4, the Indian selectors have named a squad of as many as 19 players. The squad comprises of eight specialist batsmen, three wicketkeeper-batsmen, five pacers, one specialist spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin and two all-rounders in Ravindra Jadeja and Karn Sharma. While the team was expected to have enough options in their bowling department, it is surprising to see the selectors naming two more wicketkeeper-batsmen — KL Rahul and Naman Ojha — in their arsenal.

Suresh Raina’s progress in international cricket is a welcome sign for Indian cricket, and the way he handled pacers in England — tackling the bounce and pace well — would have prompted the selectors to name him in the Test side. But Raina played his last Test match way back in 2012, and it is unlikely that he will immediately find a place in the playing eleven. The Australian fast bowling attack is one of the most feared ones in world cricket at the moment, and India may not take any risk of playing someone who has been infamous for his ineptitude against quality pace. However, his selection is completely justified keeping the ICC World Cup 2015 in mind, as he will get enough time to acclimatise and prepare well for the One-Day International (ODI) triangular series that follows the four-match Test series.

But the most significant selections in this squad are of Rahul and Naman. Both the batsmen have been scoring heavily in the domestic circuit, with Rahul amassing as many as 1,033 runs in 10 matches in the Ranji Trophy 2013-14 season. He was the second highest scorer in the tournament last year, and has continued to be among the leading run-scorers in domestic cricket for India. Naman, on the other hand, shot to limelight with his marvellous show Down Under with India A, averaging a whopping 430 with the bat. On that tour, he smashed as many as three tons in two unofficial Tests. Recently in the Duleep Trophy 2014-15 semi-final, his innings of 217 helped Central Zone rout the North and barge their way into the final of the tournament.

Rohit Sharma would be aiming to cement his place in the Test side after failing to make good on his back-to-back hundreds in his first two Tests. He has made a successful return to the national side after an injury lay-off. Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane will occupy the middle-order, and not surprisingly, the selectors have picked Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay as the specialist openers. While Vijay impressed with the bat in England with his skills and concentration, Dhawan’s atrocious run remained a cause of worry and he was even dropped from the team for the last two Tests. The left-handed opener’s struggle against quality fast bowling is evident, and India may struggle on this front.

Karn Sharma gets his maiden Test call-up, but he too may not feature in any of the four Tests. His selection may be to provide him more time to acclamatise for the triangular series as well as the world cup, if Karn is selected.

Pankaj Singh may have missed out on the tour, but the selection of Umesh Yadav is a welcome sign. The right-arm pacer also had a good tour of Australia with the India A side, and his experience of playing in Australia will come in handy for the national side. Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar easily find a place in the side, and so does Ravichandran Ashwin as the sole specialist spinner.

India might be strong in the batting department, but it is their bowling which would help them prevail in Australia in the Test series, as well as in the World Cup. The conditions would be helpful to their bowlers, but adjusting to the conditions would be a key and India bowlers will have to be a lot more disciplined than what they have been in the recent past.

India squad for tour of Australia 2014-15:

MS Dhoni (c&wk), Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul (wk), Cheteshwar Pujara,  Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Naman Ojha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Karn Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)