Yuvraj likely to make Test return
Sandeep Patil's selection panel is set to reveal their plans for reviving India's Test fortunes on Monday when they pick the team for the first of the four Tests against England, starting in Ahmedabad on November 15.
Though the five new selectors met in Chennai on October 24 to pick the India A squad for last week's tour opener in what was their first formal selection meet, this will be the first time they will announce a Test squad after taking over from Kris Srikkanth's panel at the beginning of last month.
Despite Patil's belligerence on the field during his playing days, he is unlikely to make any drastic changes to the squad that featured in the two-Test series against New Zealand in August-September. The selectors are likely to first get their eye in before starting to play the big shots, especially if there are no fitness worries with the squad.
As of now, there were minor concerns over two first-choice players. Virender Sehwag had a cut on his right index finger, which prompted him to move down to No. 6 for Delhi in their Ranji match against Uttar Pradesh, though he batted for an hour till stumps. The other worry is Zaheer Khan, who walked off mid-over in the final session of Mumbai's match against Railways after seemingly indicating a problem with his groin.
One big change from the squad for the New Zealand series is likely to be the widely expected recall of Yuvraj Singh after being on the sidelines for almost a year. He was diagnosed with a germ-cell cancer soon after he was dropped for the third Test against the West Indies in Mumbai in November last year. Since making his return to international cricket during the Twenty20 international against New Zealand and the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, Yuvraj has continued to take rapid strides towards a Test spot. His 208 for North Zone against Central Zone in the Duleep Trophy on his return to first-class cricket last month was followed up with a 59 and a five-for against England for India A at the Brabourne Stadium last week.
As a result, one of the two reserve batsmen during the New Zealand Test series - Ajinkya Rahane and S Badrinath - is set to make way for Yuvraj from the squad that featured against New Zealand. With Rahane making a statement with a second-innings fifty against England and a big hundred against Railways in the Ranji opener, it could be the unlucky Badrinath who is excluded from the squad yet again.
The other change will be in the spin department. Piyush Chawla, the Uttar Pradesh legspinner who was surprisingly brought in as the reserve spinner against New Zealand, is yet to recover from a thumb injury. As a result, don't be surprised if Harbhajan Singh, who was recalled for the T20s against Kiwis without having done anything remarkable during his year-long hiatus from the national team, returns to the Test squad. Despite Harbhajan having gone wicketless in his 21 overs for Punjab against Hyderabad in Mohali, the selectors don't have many options to look at as the third spinner, especially as Amit Mishra is far from his best at the start of the domestic season.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo