New Delhi: India's first selection meeting since the BCCI revamped its national selection committee in late September is shaping up to be an eventful event with injury concerns to Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan likely to top discussions.
On Monday at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai, the new selectors – chairman Sandeep Patil, Roger Binny, Saba Karim, Vikram Rathour and Rajinder Hans – will sit to pick India’s squad for the first Test against England starting November 15 in Ahmedabad, with the big expectancy being the return of Yuvraj Singh.
The finger injury sustained by Sehwag during Delhi's Ranji Trophy match against Uttar Pradesh is being closely monitored while in Mumbai there are worries over the fitness of Zaheer, who walked off the field after bowling five balls in the 99th over against Railways having only recently returned from another break post tea. Should the two not be deemed fit for selection on Monday, the selectors will have to decided on their replacements.
Injuries to Sehwag and Zaheer during the Ranji Trophy could result in major changes to India's Test squad from that picked against New Zealand.
If Sehwag and Zaheer are fine, then of the 15-man squad that was picked to play two Tests against New Zealand in August, 11 are certain to be named on Monday – MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer, Virat Kohli, Pragyan Ojha, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Umesh Yadav and Ajinkya Rahane (a shoo-in for reserve opener after a century for Mumbai against Railways in the Ranji Trophy).
Suresh Raina should hold on to his spot in the squad ahead of Manoj Tiwary, with 55 for Uttar Pradesh against Delhi in Ghaziabad smoothing over scores of 20 and 19 not out while leading India A against an England XI in Mumbai. Tiwary's 93 against the England XI in Mumbai was a fine innings but Raina is likely to win preference, should Sehwag be picked. If not, then Rahane will be in line for Test debut and Tiwary a maiden Test call-up as a middle-order batsman.
The big news will be the return of Yuvraj, who should take Tamil Nadu batsman S Badrinath's place. Yuvraj's 241-ball 208, which spanned over five-and-a-half hours, for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy recently would have given the selectors reason to take notice. And now a fine all-round performance against the England XI – an 80-ball 59 with four sixes and 5 for 94 with his left-arm spin – has left the 30-year-old will a strong chance of adding to his 37 Test caps. Raina batted at No. 6 against New Zealand with scores of 3, 55 and 0 still not confirming 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 raised uncertainty over his Test career. The shootout for the No. 6 spot in Ahmebadad appears a tight one, though Cricketnext has learned that Yuvraj is primed for a Test comeback.
The other notable change could be Harbhajan Singh as the third spinner, replacing the injured Piyush Chawla who held that spot in the squad picked to play New Zealand. The spin cupboard is bare, so it is foreseeable that Harbhajan will be recalled after over a year even though he bowled 21 wicketless overs in Punjab’s ongoing Ranji match against Hyderabad.
If Zaheer is declared fit, then the final fast bowler’s spot could be a tricky one. Ishant Sharma was picked for in the squad to face New Zealand despite no apparent proof that he was match-fit, but did not play. Since then, he has impressed in patches in domestic cricket. In his most recent outing, the ongoing UP-Delhi match, Ishant has figures of 25-3-88-2. Bengal’s Ashok Dinda could be in the mix after taking nine wickets in the Duleep Trophy semi-finals, but figures of 23-2-86-2 against the England XI in Mumbai and a wicketless spell against Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy may just have left the selectors more interested in Ishant as the third fast bowler behind Zaheer and Umesh Yadav.
Should Zaheer not be selected, however, then it should be a straightforward inclusion for Dinda and Ishant.
The selectors are also unlikely to name a back-up wicketkeeper for a home series, which means that Wriddhiman Saha – who dropped three catches against the England XI – and Parthiv Patel - who scored this Ranji season's first century - will be left to keep plugging away on the domestic front.
India's Test squad for Ahmedabad (probable): MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav, Yuvraj Singh, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh