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December 22, 2012
The India selection panel, headed by former batsman Sandeep Patil, will meet at the BCCI headquarters on Sunday morning, hours after the conclusion of India's second Twenty20 International against England, to finalise the squad for two T20Is and three ODIs against Pakistan. For the T20Is, the selectors are likely to retain the same fifteen chosen against England. For the ODIs, the big question is whether Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar will make the cut. While Sehwag is set to be given "another opportunity" to prove his utility, it is unclear what lies ahead for Zaheer and Tendulkar, who is believed to have made himself available.
Zaheer had made himself unavailable for the England T20Is after being dropped for the fourth Test, and played instead for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy in order to get match-fit. He will most certainly no longer be considered for the shortest form of the game, which means the selectors are set to stick to the policy of presenting an opportunity to young fast bowlers.
Similarly, Sehwag, who had also made himself unavailable for the England T20Is, is likely to be sidelined, with the selectors having an eye on the 2014 World Twenty20.
When it comes to the ODIs, ESPNcricinfo understands Zaheer has already communicated to the selectors that he would prefer to be at his best ahead of the Australia Test series, which starts in February. If the selectors adhere to his desire, India's pace attack may look brittle; to add experience, the selectors could either turn to Ishant Sharma or S Sreesanth, who took 4 for 28 for Kerala against Jharkhand on Saturday in his second game on comeback. While Ishant played his last ODI more than 18 months ago, Sreesanth has been competing with Munaf Patel and Ashish Nehra in the race for the most injury-prone fast bowler in Indian cricket.
Tendulkar has been picking and choosing the 50-over format ever since his double hundred against South Africa in February 2010. However, with his recent struggles, it remains to be seen if Patil and Co. take the bold step by dropping him (or resting, as is the norm in Indian cricket whenever a senior player is dropped) in order to build the team for the future. With Tendulkar' stature and the inability of the previous selection panel to send any message to him, it would take nothing less than a miracle for the selectors to adopt the Australian way.
However, the Tendulkar issue will crop up only if the selectors decide to stick to their earlier announcement of selecting the T20I and ODI squads on the same day. But going by the England series, don't be surprised if they end up deferring the ODI selection. After all, they announced the squad for the first two Tests against England when it was first said it would be only for the first Test. And then, they named the squad only for the third Test when it was declared they would be doing so for the remaining two Tests and the following T20Is.
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