Dravid backs KL Rahul, Karn for Australia Tests
Former India captain Rahul Dravid believes Karnataka opener KL Rahul and Railways legspinner Karn Sharma should be a part of India's squad for the Test series against Australia in December-January. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Dravid also stated that, in his view, Ravindra Jadeja and Gautam Gambhir would be surpluses to the team's requirements on tour, while Suresh Raina would have to wait longer for a Test comeback. India's national selectors will meet in Mumbai on Tuesday and could possibly name the team for the tour.
Rahul, the 22-year-old Karnataka batsman, was one of the leading run-getters in the 2013-14 domestic season and recently scored a century in each innings of the Duleep Trophy final in New Delhi for South Zone. According to Dravid, this is the "right opportunity" to introduce him to the senior set-up.
"He has scored over 1000 runs in the domestic season, looks in really good form with twin hundreds in the Duleep final, so if you are going to give a youngster an opportunity, it's good to pick him if he's in good form and actually playing well," Dravid said. "You are picking him, at least initially, as a back-up opener."
Dravid also backed Shikhar Dhawan as an opener, stating that he "needs to be given another tour considering his track record in the last 10-12 months." Dhawan played three Tests in England before making way for Gambhir, but the latter failed to make an impact, scoring 25 runs in four innings at an average of 6.25.
Dravid was also convinced that despite some blow-hot-blow-cold performances in England, the core of India's middle order - Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma - should not be disturbed. According to Dravid, Raina was not "ready to replace these guys at the moment", despite impressive performances recently in the shorter formats.
"In their short international careers all the four middle-order batsmen I have picked have shown you glimpses that they could form a really potent combination," he said. "Sure they have struggled as well, which happens to most young cricketers. But if you keep chopping and changing for every overseas series, then you find yourself in trouble. So Australia will be a good test after the disappointments of England. I think all four of them actually deserve to be given a bit more time. So it's not that somebody else is not good enough, I feel that the four here need to be backed, especially for this series."
Dravid felt that allrounder Stuart Binny, who played three Tests in England wouldn't fit the bill in Australia. He felt that while India's experiment with five bowlers in England was "a brave one", the side would need six frontline batsmen in Australia.
"In Australia, India will need six batsmen, given the kind of pace attack that Australia has and the wickets they will be up against," he said. "Pick three quality fast bowlers and a spinner, and hope you put enough runs on the board to give your bowlers enough time to pick 20 wickets."
Karn Sharma got Dravid's vote over Jadeja as "wrist spinners have a greater chance to succeed in Australia especially if they bowl slightly quicker in the air and have a good googly." In 34 first-class matches since his debut in 2007, Karn has taken 66 wickets at an average of 28.87.
"Jadeja does a good job at what he does," Dravid said. "You know what you are going to get with him, he will bowl wicket to wicket, he will bat well for you at 7 or 8 but I just feel if you want to win Test matches in Australia and you have a quality wrist-spinner, you give yourself a great chance."
Dravid picked Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron for the fast-bowling slots as he reckoned India would need "a bit of pace in truer conditions like Australia".
"With the Kookaburra ball, you need to put in a lot more to get more out of it, you need some pace. So, in my opinion, guys like Umesh and Aaron become more valuable," he said.
Dravid was optimistic about India's challenge although the side has slipped to sixth place on the ICC Test rankings and will start the series as underdogs.
"If they keep playing good cricket like they have, things will turn," he said. "When you have a young side, you are going to have some ups and downs but at least we've seen in the last three tours that they are going in the right direction. They came close a couple of times in South Africa and New Zealand and actually won a Test match in England but couldn't maintain that consistency. Hopefully, they go one better in Australia."
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75