Australia in India 2012-13 February 9, 2013

India ponder change in Test opening


India's selectors could have finally run out of patience with the established Test opening combination. ESPNcricinfo understands* that at least two selectors want Wasim Jaffer in the squad for the Australia Tests, "most probably" replacing Gautam Gambhir.

The Sandeep Patil-headed selection panel will meet on Sunday to pick the squad for, most probably, the first two Tests against Australia. The panel is likely to retain most of the other batsmen who featured in the 15 for the Nagpur Test against England but the faltering openers will be under the scanner.

With M Vijay hitting a century in the Irani Cup and Jaffer having plundered 915 runs from 12 innings this season, the growing feeling among the selectors is that both Vijay and Jaffer "deserve to be in the squad". While Vijay was the reserve opener during the Test series against England, Jaffer last played for India almost five years ago.

Despite increasing doubts over Virender Sehwag and Gambhir's place in the side, a couple of selectors also feel the Delhi pair deserves to be given "one final chance". Though Sehwag, who pulled out of the Irani Cup tie with a stomach upset, scored a century in the opening Test against England in Ahmedabad, he lost his place in the ODI side soon after.

Gambhir's drought of centuries has extended over three years, and he has averaged just over 30 since then. If the pro-Jaffer selectors manage to convince the rest of their colleagues, the casualty will "most probably" be Gambhir.

While Ajinkya Rahane set to be retained as the reserve batsmen, Ravindra Jadeja, who made a surprising debut at No. 6 in the Nagpur Test, could make way for either Suresh Raina or Rohit Sharma.

In the spin department, R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha are assured of leading the attack. It will again be a toss-up between Piyush Chawla, who played the last Test against England, and Harbhajan Singh for the reserve spinner's slot.

Although Harbhajan is on the verge of leading Rest of India to the Irani title, his performance with the ball hasn't been compelling in the domestic season. His lack of "big-wicket hauls" may go against him though his outstanding record at home against Australia could prove "too difficult to ignore" for the selectors.

With Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav and Irfan Pathan recovering from injuries, the selectors will have a tough task of finding their replacements; they may have to rely on the second string of pace bowlers. Though Ishant Sharma's ankle pain recurred recently, he is expected to be available for the Test series.

The contenders for the remaining two fast bowlers' slots will include Sreesanth, who has recovered from multiple toe surgeries, Madhya Pradesh's Ishwar Pandey, the highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy season, Shami Ahmed and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, both of whom have impressed on their limited-overs' debuts against England and Pakistan. Ashok Dinda and Parvinder Awana, both of whom were in the squad for the Nagpur Test, are "out of reckoning".

The selectors had dropped Zaheer, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan after losing the third Test against England.

MS Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher are unlikely to attend the meeting, to be held at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai, and it is "almost unlikely" that the selectors will discuss replacing Dhoni as captain.

Likely squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir/ Wasim Jaffer, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja/ Suresh Raina/ Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan Singh/ Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth/ Shami Ahmed, Ishwar Pandey/ Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

February 9, 7.45pm GMT This story has been updated with information about the openers

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Liontamer on February 11, 2013, 0:42 GMT

    Stop hanging on to old coots and give the new guys a chance. In a country of a billion cricket mad people, there have got to be better options than crummy Srishanth. We cannot keep rewarding mediocrity and select the same old non performers. If we are really out of quality seamers, I would rather fill that slot with a budding alrounder.

  • ravinder on February 10, 2013, 12:01 GMT

    I don't think Dinda was the right choice as replacement pacer. Shamim Ahmed was a better option. Harbhajan may play his 100th test but was it necessary to look back. When the selectors did not take Jafer on the ground that Dhawan and Vijay was the way forward, why differ for Bhajji? It is time to blood new players. Australians are doing it and will have a good team by the end of 2013-14. Why does India balk at dropping big names?

  • Binu on February 10, 2013, 11:59 GMT

    We lost the Eden Gardern test match becuase f GG,because of him Shewag run out in the firt innings and he called Pujara for a non existing single and he became runout.And he is always saying bad aginst Dhoni in the press. Dhawan is a good option,Jadeja in number six can provide Dhoni a chance to bat one postion up remember he scored 99 in the last test in that position and there are three players who can bat follows dhoni Aswin,Jadeja & B Kumar that will take lot of pressure from Dhoni.So i hope in this series we will see Dhoni as effective as in ODI ,So Aswin,Ohja,Buvi,Ishant as bolwers and Jadeja as the fifth bowling option remember he bowled 70 overs in the Last test.

  • RK on February 10, 2013, 9:21 GMT

    Khudos to the selection team for dropping Ghambir who was just a passenger and liability for the team. With his experience, players like him shouldn't be content with securing their places with a mere, 30 or 40 listless runs which do not make any impact to the team's cause and this move would sure send the right signals to Viru too and he should either perform or perish! But, why Harbhajan? Isn't this a step in backward direction? Aren't there spinners to look to, beyond Harbhajan, Amit Mishra and Piyush? Ashwin if doesn't perform in these 2 tests, should be dumped once and for all as we need a bowler and not an allrounder. We already have one in Jadeja who too instead of being content with bots and pieces performances, should deliver more to hold on to his place. My team for the first 2 tests will be: Viru, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli, Tendulkar, Jadeja, Dhoni, Ashwin, B.Kumar, Ishant & Ojha and these players should get to play the 2 tests to assess their utility and retained / discarded.

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    CAPTAIN COOL is gonna take india to the top!

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2013, 8:26 GMT

    After the 2nd innings performance I feel Rohit can be dropped from Mumbai side too, and Bhajji is definitely bowling better than Ojha and I hope Dhoni and Duncan are watching the match on TV. Wasim Jaffer is a class apart he should open for India against Australia. Sreesanth should also be picked

  • PURUSOTTAM on February 10, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    Jaffer and Gambhir both are good players but during this season with in the Indian domestic tournament/domestic pitch Jaffer plays better than Gambhir's last series with in the country during England series, so selector may be look after Jaffer's performance at least for the next series with in the country side as opener in the place of Gambhir.

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2013, 7:52 GMT

    Jaffer should get chance how much one should prove to the selector. how long selector will give chance to rohit sharma and why is manoj tiwary not getting ample chance. in bowler i would like to see harbhajan, ishwar panday, and b kumar should be given chance. Need to change the captain if dhoni is sagged from captaincy then he will struggle to be in playing XI. Other wicket keeper batsman are getting tons of runs in domestic. if they dont get chance to play then how will the bench strength will improve. so selectors should keep this in mind before selecting the team.

  • Dummy4 on February 10, 2013, 7:42 GMT

    @tanstell87 kohli is in bad form then is rahane in good form??? He is so called good backfoot player but he is so obsessed with that backfoot of his that the ball that could have been easily put away for boundaries on fronfoot he was defending them on backfoot too.Gambhir and rahane are one of the most irritating pair of recent times reason being they just know how to play edgy stroke through fine leg and thirdman so a player with talent like kohli definitely deserve a place, at least more than Rahane as last time i checked Kohli did score a match winning 78* against england in ODI what did Rahane do?

  • karthik on February 10, 2013, 7:31 GMT

    Hi time we see Sehwag and Gambhir dropped. They nid 2 play atlest 2 seasons of Domestic cricket wer they have 2 perform consistently. Not tat just a couple of solid scores seeing em back in2 d team. Wat our team nids r youngsters coming 2d party. Id like 2c shikar dhawan open alongwith rahane. Simply because both of em r gud players or short stuff. No matter how dead a pitch India prepares 4d visiting OZ team, they will surely give em sum sweet chin music every now nd then. So With Dhawan, Rahane and Pujara at d top im sure they have 3 gud players of short pitch bowling. Needless 2 mention SRT nd MSD also play d short pitch bowling well. One saving grace 4 gambhir can be if he can fit into d No 6 position wer India is currently pondering whom to fit. He provides d southpaw angle nd also d ball might be little old to his comfort nd help him back to form. All in all this team should play with youngsters and not out of form oldies!!! And SRT, watch out for low scores and lack of form!!!!

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