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Feb 18, 2013 at 08:37am IST

India openers on notice after Gautam Gambhir's hundred

The conundrum surrounding India's Test openers - which subtracted Gautam Gambhir from the squad, put Virender Sehwag on notice and blanketed Wasim Jaffer's run pile - isn't over; in fact, it's itching to begin afresh.

Gambhir's century for India A has given a new twist to India's opening dilemma. But what pinches you to reality is that it has come against the team that the Indian selectors thought Gambhir's bad form can't stand. The Australians won't mind it though - with a wry smile.

Since 2008, when Gambhir replaced Jaffer, the Delhi batsman was never dropped until this series. It seemed that Jaffer will return the favour five years later, especially after he capped his 835 runs for Mumbai at 75.90 in the Ranji Trophy with innings of 80 and 101* in the Irani Cup. But Jaffer lost the race to his grey streaks at 34, and Shikhar Dhawan got the nod.

India openers on notice after Gambhir hundred

Gambhir's century for India A - following his sacking from the Test squad - will keep Sehwag, Vijay, Dhawan and Rahane on their toes in the first two Tests.

Despite his century, which is the best way Gambhir could have answered his drop, he will have to play the waiting game until the first two Tests where Sehwag, Dhawan, Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane will be asked to put their skills to test.

Lefty for lefty is a like-for-like swap between the two Delhi batsmen - Gambhir and Dhawan. But it's difficult to see Dhawan, who did just enough to impress the selectors, doing anything more than carry the drinks and benefit from being part of the Test dressing room, despite a few limited-overs appearances. Until MS Dhoni wants to continue with a left and right combination at the top, Dhawan's chances of a Test debut remain pretty slim.

That leaves three right-handers - Sehwag, Vijay and Rahane - in the frame for two opening slots in Chennai and Hyderabad.

Vijay was among the reserves for the England series but his form this domestic season swung like a pendulum, though whenever he scored, he scored big and that's where he earned a few brownie points. What did the trick for Vijay's retention was his double hundred and then a hundred in two Irani Cup clashes. But his 12-Test experience is expected to help him pip Dhawan and Rahane, who are yet to debut in the longer version, to the opening slot.

'Sehwagology' has been the most intriguing subject in the last 12 months of Indian cricket. He did nothing of note after the century in the first Test against England last series and scored just 35 runs in two ODIs against Pakistan, which put him out of selectors' sight for the limited-overs series against England. But his gamechanging abilities are hard to ignore, which helped him retain his Test spot, albeit with a 'watch-out' notice after Gambhir's sacking.

So does all that come to Sehwag and Vijay opening in Chennai? Probably yes; probably because there's a train of thought that maybe Sehwag should bat in the middle order now to lend some solidarity to the young middle order. But it's difficult to see Dhoni buying that argument, considering the match-winner Sehwag has been as a Test opener. But if Dhoni were to buy that, it could open a door for Dhawan or Rahane to make a Test debut.

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