Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan recalled for Tests
Temperamental fast bowler Sreesanth has been given another chance to resurrect his stop-start career, after being selected in India's 15-man squad for the first two Tests against Sri Lanka. Weeks after being given a "final warning" for his poor on-field behaviour, Sreesanth is now a candidate to share the new ball with Zaheer Khan, who has recovered from his shoulder injury.
Sreesanth last played for India in 2008, and had his share of injuries and criticism over attitude in equal measure. During the time he spent out of the Indian team, Sreesanth played 10 first-class games for 28 wickets, including one five-wicket haul for Warwickshire, and 23 overs for no wickets against Andhra in his latest Ranji Trophy match. Clearly his selection is a gamble on promise over form. It is a big - bordering on generous - decision made by the selectors, and an equally big chance for Sreesanth to wash away all the criticism against him.
Zaheer made an expected comeback, having recovered from the injury he sustained during the IPL, and having featured in Twenty20 matches during the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament and a Ranji Trophy fixture. He has not missed a Test, but has not played limited-overs cricket for India since the ICC World Twenty20 in June.
The selectors also recalled Pragyan Ojha, the left-arm spinner, and S Badrinath. His Tamil Nadu team-mate M Vijay retained his place as reserve batsman. Ojha, yet to make his Test debut, toured Sri Lanka in 2008, but lost his place to Amit Mishra, who made a strong debut against Australia in Mohali in 2008-09. Vijay, an opener, was handed a debut in Nagpur against Australia after Gautam Gambhir was banned for one Test. Badrinath has yet to play a Test.
There was no place for Ashish Nehra, who has done well after making his ODI return, or Munaf Patel, as India opted for three spinners. There was no reserve wicketkeeper named.
The decision to pick 15 players, and that too an extra batsman, raised questions about the selection. Usually for a home series, only 14 players are picked. And with the middle order set in stone, neither Vijay nor Badrinath has a realistic chance of starting in Ahmedabad. Now both of them will miss important Ranji Trophy matches, when only one was needed as injury cover, unless someone is sent back to domestic cricket on the morning of the Ahmedabad Test.
The selection also left the bowling unbalanced. MS Dhoni is not a fan of playing only two pace bowlers unless the pitch is extremely spin-friendly, and the selectors have given him only three fast bowlers to choose from. Zaheer Khan is coming back from injury, Ishant Sharma is in poor form, and Sreesanth is a completely unpredictable character. One bowling back-up would have been of more value than two batting back-ups. And what about Munaf? He has lost his Test place on the basis of 13 overs bowled in two ODIs against Australia, one of them on a flat Hyderabad pitch.
India squad: MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, M Vijay, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo