India news January 5, 2013

Time running out for India openers

The result of India's match against Pakistan at the Kotla maybe inconsequential in the context of the series, but the match is critical for India's struggling openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir to revive selectors' faith in them ahead of the upcoming series against England.

The national selection panel is set to be convened at the end of the match for selecting the squad for the five-match ODI series against England, which begins in Rajkot on January 11. And with both Sehwag and Gambhir repeatedly failing to make sizeable contributions in the shorter format, don't be surprised if one of them - if not both - faces the axe at least for the initial phase of the England ODIs.

Since his epic 219 against West Indies in December 2011, Sehwag has had a forgettable run with the bat in the 50-over format. He has been able to score just 248 runs in 11 innings since the record knock in Indore. His solitary fifty during this period came during the series in Sri Lanka last July-August. As a result, time is running out for the veteran player.

"The only way he can save himself is by coming up with a big knock tomorrow. Otherwise, it will be difficult for him to be a part of the squad thereafter," a source close to the selection panel said.

It is also uncertain if the selectors will announce the squad for all five ODIs or a part of the series. With the team in dire straits, it won't be surprising if Sunday will see the squad for the first two or three ODIs being named.

What is almost certain though is the entry of Cheteshwar Pujara into the one-day fold. The Saurashtra batsman has more than established himself as a Test No. 3. But with his ability to find gaps at will, Pujara is set to be included in the one-day squad for the first time. It remains to be seen if he replaces either of the established openers or Mumbai batsman Rohit Sharma, who yet again failed to translate his form in domestic cricket on to the international stage.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo