The Indian Test team for the West Indies tour has been announced.
In a surprise move, Indian selectors rested Sachin Tendulkar. The master batsman will not feature on the entire West Indies tour. West Indian cricket fans are denied an opportunity to catch one last glimpse of Tendulkar before he bids farewell to the game.
The controversial shoulder injury to Gautam Gambhir and the sudden illness of Yuvraj Singh mean that this is one of the weakest batting sides to tour abroad in recent times.
Virender Sehwag’s recuperation from a shoulder surgery ensures that there are two fresh-faced batsmen to combat West Indian quicks.
Abhinav Mukund and Murali Vijay are the openers. Vijay averages 38.35 in nine Tests that includes a ton against Australia at home in 2008. Mukund is his Tamil Nadu team-mate, averaging 56.36 with two hundreds and one 50 in nine Ranji trophy games this season.
Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni shoulder the responsibility of racking up large totals. S Badrinath is the other ‘senior’ batter—also from Tamil Nadu.
Parthiv Patel is the back-up keeper. Young guns ,Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, battle it out for the No. 6 slot. Kohli impressed one-and-all with his recent ODI performances. He exhibits a cool head under pressure.
Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel and S Sreesanth form the pace battery.
Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha are the spinning triad. There is variety here with an off-spinner, a leg-spinner and an orthodox left-armer.
If India go into the Tests with seven batsmen and four bowlers, the ideal line-up should read: Mukund, Vijay, Dravid, Laxman, Badrinath, Raina or Kohli, Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth. The temperamental Kerala pacer can make amends for his lacklustre World Cup showing.
Dhoni might be tempted to either have Badrinath or Dravid or even Parthiv open the innings if he decides not to risk young Mukund. It is a temptation well-resisted. When you have a specialist, field the specialist.
The toss-up for the No. 6 spot is between Kohli and Raina. Dhoni’s preference for the UP batsman is well-known. However, it serves the side better for young Kohli to make his debut—given Raina’s predilection against the rising ball.
West Indian bowling stock has fallen in recent times, but their pacers are good enough to give pretenders a run for their money. Raina was brutally exposed on the South African tour.
Munaf Patel has accomplished much as a restrictive bowler in ODIs. Fast bowlers need to attack the batsmen, not wait for them to commit mistakes---in Tests. Patel has to learn to unleash the thunderbolts, every once in a while, breaking the monotonous sameness of his off-and-around-off deliveries.
Slower balls work well, as a tactic, against batsmen seeking to attack. It is unlikely to unsettle batsmen looking to defend dourly.
If the Indian skipper gambles with five bowlers, Amit Mishra has the edge over Praghyan Ojha. It is inconceivable that Team India will field four fast bowlers in a Test match. (That will be the day.)
On the brighter side, the West Indian tour presents a golden opportunity for the young ‘uns to come good and prove themselves against opposition weaker than current English, Australian or South African sides.
It also provides selectors and Indian fans more than a presentiment of what the future holds sans Sachin Tendulkar.
Suresh Raina, meanwhile, takes over the reins from Gautam Gambhir in the ODIs. Manoj Tiwary and Shikhar Dhawan get a look-in instead of Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh.
Tests: M.S. Dhoni (captain and wk), V.V.S. Laxman (vice-captain), M. Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, R. Dravid, V. Kohli, S. Badrinath, S. Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, S. Sreesanth, A. Mishra, P. Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Parthiv Patel(wk).
ODIs/T20: S. Raina (captain), R. Ashwin, S. Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh (vice-captain), V. Kohli, Praveen Kumar, A. Mishra, Munaf Patel, Parthiv Patel(wk), Yusuf Pathan, W. Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Vinay Kumar, M. Tiwary, S. Dhawan .
Quote of the day:
Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute. – Josh Billings