Zaheer likely to return for West Indies Tests
India, who will announce the squad for the two Tests against West Indies on Thursday, are likely to recall Zaheer Khan. At the moment, the return of Zaheer is one of the easier decisions the selectors might have to make as India prepare for life after Sachin Tendulkar and also continuous away Test series in South Africa, New Zealand and England.
The other important and debated calls will revolve around whether India need a reserve opener to go with the duo of Shikhar Dhawan and M Vijay, whether to pick four quicks in the squad, and whether to have a fourth spinner in case they need more than R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja.
Even though Vijay has been successful in recent Tests, scoring two scores of 150-plus in the series against Australia, his form in limited-overs formats hasn't been great, resulting in his being dropped from the ODI squad. That might make the selectors look for a third opener, especially with the South Africa tour to follow immediately. Gautam Gambhir, who scored a century against West Indies A recently, could be the man to do that job, or India could go for Rohit Sharma to play the dual back-up role, both at the top of the order and in the middle.
Either or both of Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina will feature in the middle order. This is where Virender Sehwag remains an outside chance too, although he has yet to show the runs at his new No. 4 position. Another school of thought is that Sehwag will be allowed to play domestic cricket to get some runs under his belt so that a clearer and more informed decision can be made once the real middle-order vacancy is created, after Tendulkar's retirement.
The three quicks in India's last squad, which played Australia at home, were Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Ashok Dinda. Only Bhuvneshwar seems safe. Zaheer, who has come back leaner and fitter and has impressed with four-wicket hauls against West Indies A and Haryana, is likely to take Dinda's place, and a fit-again Umesh Yadav is likely to push Ishant. There is an outside chance the selectors might go for four quicks in the squad, if only with South Africa in mind.
Harbhajan Singh was part of India's previous Test squad, and was clearly surplus. However, just when you thought it might be easy to drop him, he had served a timely notice with a six-for in Punjab's Ranji Trophy opener. Harbhajan is likely to push for that final spot, which is a real wild card in this meeting.
No one - from Virender Sehwag to Gambhir to Harbhajan to Ishant to Yadav to Mohammed Shami to Ajinkya Rahane to Suresh Raina - can be ruled out when it comes to these final two spots.
Likely squad Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, and three out of Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo