At 9:30am on Monday, an injured Virender Sehwag was a doubt for India's Test squad. By noon, he was batting on 100 for Delhi and an hour later firmly ensconced in the minds of the new BCCI selection committee, which also pleasantly surprised Murali Vijay and Harbhajan Singh by naming them in a 15-man squad for the first two Tests against England.
Experience, consistency, luck and revenge – that sound like a sequel to 'Sex, Lies and Videotape' – were the factors that counted as the Sandip Patil-led selection panel debuted at the selection table inside the BCCI corridors of power in Mumbai.
When at least 11 of the 15 should have picked themselves, only eight did – after a finger injury to Sehwag, a groin injury to Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir's dry spell cast doubt over their selection. MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Pragyan Ojha were the only ones who made the selectors' task a tad easier.
The selection of Sehwag, Gambhir and Zaheer hints more at experience than expectancy from what India\'s younger players can deliver.
But any question marks over their names were dispelled in contrasting fashion by Sehwag and Zaheer. While Sehwag – batting at No. 6 in Delhi's second innings – smashed a century, Zaheer went through what looked like a fitness test during the lunch break in Mumbai's game against Railways. So just in time, the two stalwarts came back into the reckoning and finally onto the squad list.
Gambhir, it must be said, sneaked in on the basis of experience alone. His scores of 32 and 47 in two Ranji Trophy innings for Delhi did him little good, but the enormity of the task was in his favour, which got him the nod. So experience had the last laugh in the cases of Sehwag, Zaheer and Gambhir.
But the two first-choice opening batsmen – Sehwag and Gambhir – have been issued a notice with the inclusion of two reserve openers. Ajinkya Rahane was sure to be rewarded for his consistency, especially after his hundred against Railways and Sehwag's finger injury, but recalling Vijay knocked many over – not on performance grounds but for the luxury of four openers in the squad of 15 for a series at home. To his credit, Vijay earned it with a record double-hundred in the Irani Trophy. But four openers is definitely extra luggage.
Ishant Sharma, too, should consider himself lucky. Ashok Dinda was the frontrunner for the reserve pacer's job after his Duleep Trophy heroics, but the Delhi bowler probably got the call on experience.
That completed the 14, but the selectors didn't stop there and added an extra man, the 15th, to the squad – it was Harbhajan. The offspinner, included as backup for Ashwin, will in all probability warm the bench, but he won't mind a recall after toiling for 15 months.
In hindsight, though, it's debatable who the 15th man in the squad really is – Vijay or Harbhajan? Vijay can advocate for himself as ahead of Rahane for the reserve opener's slot, while Harbhajan can contest his case as the extra spinner in the side.
But amid all that, Manoj Tiwary's disappointment is the most palpable. It is hard to fathom how two reserve openers got the nod when Tiwary could have easily provided backup to the middle order, and deservingly.
India's Test squad: MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma