From India's perspective, the three-day practice match between the touring England team and India A at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai starting October 30 holds plenty of significance. In particular, there are a few players in the India A squad for whom this match could influence their Test careers.
Here’s a look at the players and scenarios that the Indian selectors would be keeping an extra focus on.
Yuvraj Singh vs Suresh Raina
Both left-handers are in content_cnion for the vacant No. 6 spot in India’s Test lineup. Raina would appear to have a head start considering he batted at that position against New Zealand recently, but Yuvraj’s double-century for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy appears to have significantly lessened that gap.
Yuvraj’s return to international cricket since recovering from cancer was not exemplary but he progressed with each match. What the selectors would perhaps have taken more confidence from was the 30-year-old’s 241-ball 208 against Central Zone, which spanned over five-and-a-half hours, in his first first-class match. Playing a big innings against the English would be at the top of Yuvraj’s priority with a strong chance of adding to his 37 Test caps.
Making a comeback to the Test side after being dropped for the Australia tour, Raina’s three innings against New Zealand have still not confirmed his potential as a Test batsman. Though he scored a crucial half-century in the first innings of the second Test, Raina’s disgraceful departure in the second innings has raised uncertainty over his Test career. With scores of 3, 55 and 0 in three innings we are nowhere nearer to getting a better sense of Raina as a Test batsman.
The top order
Gautam Gambhir’s reference to his Test partnership numbers with Virender Sehwag recently has drawn some criticism, but for now it looks like that an average of 53 will be enough to keep the pair going together at the top of India’s lineup. It does not mean, however, that the two are assured to bat together in four Tests against England. Gambhir and Sehwag have gone almost two years without a century partnership; Gambhir has not scored a Test century in nearly three years; and Sehwag’s last century came in November 2010.
When the two have been injured or absent through suspension, the replacement openers have been Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund, the Tamil Nadu pair set to open for India A in Mumbai. Neither has played for India since the summer of 2011, but strong performances here and more in the upcoming Ranji Trophy season could keep the selectors interested.
The frontrunner for the position of back-up opener, though, is the domestic run-machine Ajinkya Rahane, who has been a part of India’s last two Test squads. Runs against England would be a big boost for the Mumbai batsman.
It could be Dinda’s time
With Zaheer Khan unlikely to last eight home Test matches – Australia will land in India in the New Year – and Ishant Sharma not stepping up into a leadership role despite playing 45 Test matches, India are in need of identifying who their fast bowlers for the future are. Zaheer will hold his place as India’s spearhead against England and Umesh Yadav is an automatic pick, but there will be focus on Ashok Dinda in Mumbai.
The Bengal bowler topped the wickets’ list in the previous Ranji Trophy season and has had two strong Duleep Trophy seasons in a row; he took a career-best 8 for 23 in last season’s semi-finals and in this year’s return he took 7 for 27 as East Zone made the final again. Riding high on his form and expecting a maiden Test call-up, the 28-year-old does stand a strong chance of getting selected if he impresses for India A.