Munaf breaks through, Yuvraj returns
Munaf Patel, who engineered an eight-wicket victory for the Board President's XI in Baroda last week, has been rewarded with a call up for the Mohali Test, with Vikram Raj Vir Singh making way for the match which will be played at his home venue.
The only other change in the 15-man squad is the return of Yuvraj Singh, recovered from the hamstring strain that ruined his matchwinning century in the final ODI against Pakistan at Karachi. Suresh Raina, touted as an Indian great of the future, makes way, though Kiran More, the chairman of selectors emphasised that he was very much a part of plans for the future. "We have to pick Yuvraj," More said. "Suresh Raina is an outstanding player, and is part of a grooming process. He's ready to play any class of cricket."
The inclusion of Munaf, the 22-year-old from Ikhar in Gujarat, ahead of VRV was just as easily explained. "We wanted to give VRV a taste of Test cricket and also assess his fitness. He has not played much, and we want him to go back to domestic cricket and play more games. Munaf has been in great form. He's taken a lot of wickets in domestic cricket [for Maharashtra and West Zone], and also had 10 wickets in the side game. Even from the Deodhar Trophy, the reports that we have got have been outstanding."
More also spoke of how delighted the selection committee and team management were with Wasim Jaffer, who justified with recall with superb knocks of 81 and 100, his maiden century. When asked if India would continue to repose faith in specialist openers rather than going back to the makeshift theory adopted in Pakistan, More minced no words. "Jaffer has proved himself. We will certainly go in with specialist openers. It was a big area of concern for us, but he batted brilliantly and we're very happy."
When prodded about "the other opener" - Virender Sehwag failed in both innings here - More refused to take the bait. "He's one of the best we have," he said in perfunctory fashion. Enquiries about Harbhajan Singh's fate, after unflattering figures of 2 for 527 from his last three Tests, met with a guarded response. "We haven't even seen the pitch yet," said More. "We'll go there and decide on an XI after we see the pitch and conditions."
An attempt to inject some controversy into an otherwise straightforward media briefing was coolly shot down. When asked about his comment that the door had been shut on Sourav Ganguly, More said: "I said the same thing at my last press conference. We're not going to look back. We will only look forward. There's nothing new in that."
Squad Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, VVS Laxman, Mohammad Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth, Rudra Pratap Singh, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla.
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo