Sreesanth, Unadkat in Board President's XI squad
Sreesanth has an opportunity to make another comeback to the Test team after being named in the Board President's XI squad to take on the touring Australians in the three-day opening game in Chandigarh. Three other fast bowlers, including the uncapped Jaidev Unadkat, were named in a 14-man squad that will be led by Test opener Gautam Gambhir.
Strangely, though, the squad features four players involved with the Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa - which ends on September 26, a day after the tour game starts. If all IPL sides make it to the semi-finals, to be held on September 24 and 25, the BP XI will be left with only 10 men.
The BP XI squad includes only six specialist batsmen, two of whom - Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan - have a realistic chance of being in South Africa when the tour game starts. R Ashwin and Abhimanyu Mithun are the two other players taking part in the Champions League. Rohit Sharma, who was part of the squad in the recently concluded tri-series in Sri Lanka and is now available without any Twenty20 commitments, hasn't been picked.
Picking a squad with only six specialist batsmen, even for a practice match, suggests the selection committee hasn't learned from its Nagpur fiasco last year. For the first Test against South Africa, they had picked a Test side with only six batsmen, and were forced to give wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha a debut after one of the specialist batsmen injured himself on the morning of the match.
The BP XI's bowling attack is strong, and shows the confidence that Unadkat and Umesh Yadav, another rookie who made his India debut during the Zimbabwe tri-series last year, have earned over the last year or so. Unadkat, yet to play a first-class game in India, has impressed the selectors with his performance in the Under-19 World Cup, the India A tour to England and the Emerging Players tournament in Australia.
Unadkat's call-up is the latest development in a career that has progressed quickly since it began earlier this year. After playing in the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand and securing an IPL contract with Kolkata Knight Riders, Unadkat had an outstanding first-class debut for India A, taking 13 wickets against West Indies A in Leicester. He took 12 wickets during the Emerging Players tournament in Australia. Unadkat and Yadav were sent to Sri Lanka to help out as quality net bowlers, and also so that the team management could have a look at the two of the up-coming quicks.
The team's captain, Gambhir, missed two of the three Tests and the ODI tri-series in Sri Lanka because of a knee problem. Gambhir played only five balls in the Galle Test, and was dismissed by Lasith Malinga in both innings. Sreesanth was also poised to make a national comeback during the Tests in Sri Lanka, but he sustained a knee injury while warming up for a nets session, which ruled him out of the tour. His last Test was in Chittagong in January.
The squad also includes two batsmen who are contenders for middle-order slots in the future - Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, also an impressive performer for India A in England.
Board President's XI: Gautam Gambhir (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Abhimanyu Mithun, Sreesanth, Jaidev Unadkat, Umesh Yadav, Abhinav Mukund, Ravindra Jadeja.