Fragile fast bowlers Indian selectors' main concern
India's fragile fast bowlers are the selectors' chief concern as they meet in Bangalore on Wednesday to whittle down the list of 24 probables for India's forthcoming tour of Australia. The focus is on Munaf Patel, whose fitness will be assessed before any decision is made.
The selectors are likely to meet soon after the fifth day's play of the final Test against Pakistan, and may name a 16-man squad for the four-Test series. At the moment it seems likely that India's bowling attack will be led by three left-arm bowlers in Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan. Ishant Sharma's five-wicket haul in Pakistan's first innings has made him a shoo-in for the fourth fast bowling spot.
It is for the final spot that there is some doubt. Should Munaf be cleared to play, he is likely to complete the set. If he is not fit, then VRV Singh, who was in the squad for the final Pakistan Test is the front-runner to take a place. The names of Pankaj Singh and Pradeep Sangwan are also doing the rounds, but the selectors are likely to go with VRV, who is more experienced than the other two, albeit not by much.
The selectors also showed their hand when they called Gautam Gambhir into the squad in the final Test and he is likely to get one of the opening slots. With Wasim Jaffer having the time of his life with the bat, only one more opener's slot is left to be filled. Dinesh Karthik has had a poor run in the series against Pakistan, but his performances in South Africa and England could ensure that he gets another chance to prove himself. The strongest contender for this spot is Parthiv Patel, who has been scoring heavily and consistently in domestic cricket. However, it is likely that the selectors will leave this borderline decision to Anil Kumble, the captain. So far Kumble has backed Karthik to the hilt, despite scores of 8, 9, 1, 1 and 28 in his last five innings.
|The tougher question, of course, will come when it's time to pick the playing XI for the first Test in Melbourne. Yuvraj, with his incredible innings of 169 in Bangalore, has made it virtually impossible to leave him out of the side|
The rest of the team picks more or less picks itself with Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh making up the middle order. Mahendra Singh Dhoni will keep wickets and Kumble will have one spinner for company in Harbhajan Singh.
The tougher question, of course, will come when it's time to pick the playing XI for the first Test in Melbourne. Yuvraj, with his incredible innings of 169 in Bangalore, has made it virtually impossible to leave him out of the side. This leaves Kumble in the unenviable situation of having to drop someone from the middle order, or sacrifice a bowler, neither of which seem feasible. The one option ahead of Kumble is to use Dravid as an opener, playing only Jaffer as a specialist opener, in order to accommodate the extra batsman. But there is some time yet for that decision to be made.
India's Test squad for Australia (probable)
Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Anil Kumble (capt), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel.
Anand Vasu is an associate editor at Cricinfo