India news December 18, 2015

Shami, Jadeja likely to return for Australia series

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Likely comebacks for Shami, Jadeja

Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja are almost certain to return to the India squad for the ODI and T20 series in Australia in January. The Indian selectors will meet on Saturday evening to pick the squads. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that Shami will "walk into the squad" unless his fitness report suggests he needs more time to recover fully from knee surgery, and that Jadeja's impressive Test form and "all-round" ability could also get him the nod.

Shami, who underwent surgery after the World Cup, has only recently returned to competitive cricket after missing the IPL and the start of the domestic season. In two matches for Bengal in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy he has bowled 18 overs, taking a total of three wickets for 92 runs. 

Shami, 25, was one of India's bright sparks at the World Cup, finishing fourth in the wicket-takers list with 17 scalps at an average of 17.29 and economy rate of 4.81 from seven matches. In his absence, India have struggled to find a settled pace attack.

In the recent ODI series against South Africa, the trio of Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma and Bhuvneswar Kumar attracted criticism for their lack of control. Although they took 15 wickets among them, their economy rates of near or over seven runs per over was identified as a major area of concern. In fact, captain MS Dhoni publicly lamented the failure of his fast bowlers to step up to the demands of international cricket.

"If you see any other Test or ODI-playing nation, the fast bowlers come and in one or two years they graduate to the next level - they become the strike bowlers or they learn what their strength is and bowl according to that," Dhoni said after the fifth ODI in Mumbai, where South Africa plundered 438 runs in 50 overs. "To some extent, we have not been able to do that and also, once you put in a lot of time and effort in a particular individual and if it doesn't come up good, then a vacuum gets created where you have to look for the individuals."

Shami, who made his ODI debut nearly three years ago, has taken 87 wickets from 47 ODIs at an average of 24.89 and an economy rate of 5.54. 

Jadeja, who was dropped for the ODI series in Zimbabwe and against South Africa, is back on the radar as he can provide balance to the playing XI. It is unlikely that India will play four fast bowlers in a playing XI and Jadeja is being considered as an ideal option to bat at No. 7 and bowl his full quota of ten overs, allowing the team management to play five specialist bowlers. 

It is unclear yet if a 15 or 16-member squad will be chosen for the five ODIs and three T20s to be played from January 12 to 31. That decision will be based on the requirements of the team management. The selectors will also consider performances of players involved in the Vijay Hazare Trophy when they meet in New Delhi on Saturday.

ESPNcricinfo understands that "continuity of selection" is important and hence performances for India A and the series in Zimbabwe earlier in the year, where second-string players were given opportunities, will be considered to fill any available slots in a fairly settled outfit.

Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75