Chennai: "Don't want sympathies, time to show some steel," Gautam Gambhir said after being dropped from the India squad for the first two Tests against Australia. The 31-year-old opener has a chance to showcase the steel he is made of when he will captain India A in the three-day game against the Australians starting in Chennai on Saturday.
Gambhir was given the role after Shikhar Dhawan was selected to the India squad. Gambhir hasn't scored a Test century or any score of a considerable note for over three years now and the three-day game gives him a chance to bat himself back into form.
The game will also provide a chance to a number of India hopefuls who have had a good first-class season. Jiwanjot Singh, the Punjab opener, has had a dream debut season, having been the highest scorer in the Ranji Trophy with 995 runs at 66.33. Rohit Sharma will want to make amends for his abysmal showing in the Irani Cup where he threw his wicket away twice. Manoj Tiwary will also want to put himself back on the selectors' radar.
CM Gautam, the Karnataka wicketkeeper, too had a successful season in which he scored 943 runs at an astonishing average of 118. It will be a chance for him to perform a notch higher than what he has done so far. Same holds true for Jalaj Saxena, who shone for Madhya Pradesh this season, along with paceman Ishwar Pandey. Abhishek Nayar couldn't contribute much in the Irani Cup but he would like to stake his claim for the vacant allrounder's slot in the Indian team.
Dhawal Kulkarni is almost certain to be in the playing XI, courtesy his match-winning spell in the Ranji Trophy final. Either Vinay Kumar or Manpreet Gony will get the nod as a second seamer. Gujarat's Rakesh Dhruv will bowl left-arm spin, along with Rajasthan's spin allrounder Ashok Menaria.
The match is also the last chance for Australia to get their act together against playing spin before the first Test commences in Chennai from next Friday. While Michael Clarke will test his sore hamstring and prove his fitness ahead of the Test, there is still a doubt over the participation of David Warner, who had a broken thumb.
Another good showing here will make allrounder Moises Henriques a frontrunner for the first Test, while spin allrounder Glenn Maxwell has another chance to impress the team management. In the drawn game against the Board President's XI, Ed Cowan was the only Australian batsman to have crossed the fifty mark. Usman Khawaja and Matthew Wade - who captained the side in that game - would like to get a few more runs. Nathan Lyon and Xavier Doherty, the two specialist spinners, will test themselves before bowling against the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Co.
India A squad: Gautam Gambhir (capt), Jiwanjot Singh, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, C Gautam, Rakesh Dhruv, Jalaj Saxena, Manpreet Gony, Vinay Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ashok Menaria, Abhishek Nayar.
Australia squad: Michael Clarke (captain), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Glenn Maxwell, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Xavier Doherty, Jackson Bird.