November 18, 2011

Who's going to Australia then?

India's squad for the tour down under more or less picks itself

As India's selectors sat down to the rather enviable job of watching Rahul Dravid bat at the Wankhede stadium, grammar, grace and grooming all on display, they must scarcely have thought of the job ahead of them. While it would seem that picking a team to tour Australia might require a lot of introspection, analysis and tough decision-making, in reality it is a far easier assignment than a few others going around. Certainly it is easier than pretending to curb inflation or reining in fiery chief ministers.

Normally I'm not a great fan of picking 17 players. Generally the fewer players you have who are unlikely to get a game, the better the climate in the change room. But given fitness levels, it may not be a bad idea to look at the extra player. His only job might be to hide the more aggressive pieces in the newspapers from the players, but it is better the extra player is in Australia than at the consulate back in India, waiting for a visa.

The extra player will have to be a quick bowler, given that Zaheer Khan will be returning from an injury, and that both Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron haven't been around long enough for anyone to get a comforting picture on their fitness. Ishant Sharma has bowled a lot of overs on an ankle that was, till recently, cause for concern. It looks like a fifth bowler of that tribe would be a prudent investment.

The eight batsmen select themselves. With Virender Sehwag fit and Gautam Gambhir's wedding behind him, those two are free to continue with an opening partnership that is working and yet performing to no more than par. It will be the last time Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman will be touring Australia, and those three will have tick marks against their name quickly - not on grounds of sentiment or of cruelty to youngsters but by the weight of runs.

By leaving Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina out of the home series, the selectors have already shown their hand. Virat Kohli must go to Australia, and it seems Rohit Sharma has earned their fancy. You can complain with neither decision. That leaves the reserve opener, a slot that Dravid, particularly, would be keen to see filled. Murali Vijay hasn't knocked on the door hard enough; neither really has Abhinav Mukund, who looked good in patches in England. It would seem that Ajinkya Rahane has the nod at the moment, but that decision might take a third of the time at the meeting.

If Zaheer can run in hard in the two Ranji Trophy matches he has, that will be a significant boost. But run in hard he must, for he has only been in Australia on short-term visas in the past

Harbhajan Singh is not exactly running through sides in the Ranji Trophy, and he has relatively uninspiring numbers in Australia behind him, which means Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin should make it. There is something to be said in favour of Harbhajan, though, for he is a feisty character and gets under Aussie skins, but he is more likely to do that with wickets in his bag. This might not be his tour.

Both Yadav and Aaron have impressed in their own spheres. At the moment, promise rather than achievement is their qualification, but they've done enough to make it, along with Ishant. And if Zaheer can run in hard in the two Ranji Trophy matches he has, that will be a significant boost. But run in hard he must, for he has only been in Australia on short-term visas in the past. He swings the ball, and in recent times Australian batsmen haven't countered the curving ball as well as they do the straight one. Mumbai's game on the 29th will be worth a look.

So who is number five then? In England Praveen Kumar was outstanding but in Australia the sun will beat down, the tracks will be hard, and the seam on the Kookaburra will go faster than a Mumbai winter. Still, apart from swing, he showed a lot of heart in England and so he will probably get the nod ahead of RP Singh and Sreesanth and Vinay Kumar. I hope the selectors are keeping a close eye on Irfan Pathan, though, for he has had two five-wicket hauls and has done a lot of bowling. He could be handy at No. 8, for if Zaheer isn't fit and Ojha plays ahead of Ashwin, Dhoni will be followed by Ishant, Yadav, Aaron and Ojha, which will leave him just enough time for a change of pads.

The selectors seem to like Wriddhiman Saha as the next-best wicketkeeper and so this is the team that will most likely go to Australia: Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rahane, Dhoni, Saha, Zaheer, Ishant, Aaron, Yadav, Praveen Kumar, Ashwin and Ojha.

It is the best team India can put out at the moment.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mathew on November 28, 2011, 9:18 GMT

    Sreesanth should be a better choice in Ausis tour.............where is he......?

  • Munawar on November 27, 2011, 9:06 GMT

    I feel for Bhajji, Jaffer and Parthiv. Who is the third specialist opener for Australia tour. No one. If need be they will ask Rahane to fill in. Feel bad for Rahane as he is not an opener. I don't think it will be good for his career. In any case Jaffer is far more talented, technically more sound and much more experienced than likes of Rahane or Rohit. One fails to understand the blatant bias against Jaffer. On the other hand one fails to understand blatant favor for W.Saha. He somehow makes it to the team by hook or by crook. Parthiv again is made the casualty despite good performances both with bat and keeping. Despite 22 wicket haul by Ashwin in this series I still think Ashwin is a Ranji level off spinner who has a good carrom ball. Even West Indies batsmen had started reading his carrom ball well and had sorted him out by end of series. Favourable pitches and average west indies batsmen were the reasons behind Ashwin success. India will sorely miss Bhajji's experience and guile.

  • Munawar on November 27, 2011, 8:42 GMT

    How come Gambhir is getting the nod again and again when his average in last 2 years has been 32 runs per innings and he hasn't scored a century in his last 34 innings which is almost 12 Test matches and three series. Unthinkable it is...absolutely. Gambhir's weakness against short pitch stuff and rising delivery outside off stump on bouncy tracks is almost written in stone by now. When lesser mortals - Rampaul, Sammy, Edwards could sort him out what will Siddle, Cumins, Johnson do to him.His fitness is also a questionable these days. But still he gets the nod for Australia tour. Ridiculous, isn't it.On such an important tour, they leave third specialist opener slot vacant for guys like Rahane or Rohit.We can only imagine their fate against swinging cherry on fast bouncy tracks-Perth, Melbourn,etc.By excluding Jaffer Srikkanth and his cronies caused a miscarriage of justice again. Poor guy! However, he shouldn't lose hope.In a years time Srikkanth, Hirwani will be out of selection team

  • Srinivas on November 27, 2011, 4:42 GMT on Harsha or did someone leak the squad to you?

  • Dummy4 on November 26, 2011, 20:15 GMT

    I think Suresh Raina should go instead of rahane. The Raina-Kohli partnersip could be really huge and could easily benefit india

  • Abhishek on November 26, 2011, 17:50 GMT

    Seems like Sreekanth and Co read this article on Cricinfo and selected exactly the same team- be glad they at last read too! @Ganes. V- you are absolutely spot on. Sachin should have been selected in ODIs so that he doesnt make important test matches as his hunt ground for that mere, elusive, purely statistical milestone of a 100th international 100

  • Dummy4 on November 26, 2011, 11:31 GMT

    Irfan Pathan sure deserves another chance, no doubt. I'd so love to see Robin Uthappa again, but sadly all gates are closed for him at the moment because of the current array of Indian batsmen.

  • Randolph on November 26, 2011, 8:59 GMT

    It doesn't really matter who comes to Oz because they will still be resoundly thumped and head home with their tail between their legs. Sachin won't get his personal record he so desperately wants and will fail in every second innings as is the norm. I predict NZ to give us more of a challenge.

  • Ganes on November 26, 2011, 8:44 GMT

    I am a big fan of SRT. But am actually getting fed up of the hype for the 100th 100. I know I am writing this on a report of team selection to Australia. BUT He had this opportunity in Indian wickets but he didnt score even one- when young Windies batsmen scored plenty. Age reflex and the tension is getting on to him. Added to this, when he is not picked up for the one day team, it makes it that much more difficult for him now. As I write this, he has got out int he second innings of the third test again for a paltry 3. It is time he stops giving these kind of opportunities to bookies- as I read in news papers they are the ones benefiting out of this! He should have been selected for the ODI's as well so that he gets over the tension of the 100th 100 by scoring one. Now he goes to Australia with this and fails there as well and soon will have to end his career like some other greats who did not had a great end. I sincerely hope that he plays the last ones atleast for his and God's sake

  • Aditya on November 26, 2011, 7:16 GMT

    Squads been announced - spot on! Would've loved to see Irfan and Pujara down under

  • No featured comments at the moment.