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July 3, 2012
For the first time since the IPL was inaugurated, India have had a significant break between the tournament and their subsequent international series. They will have had a break exactly as long as IPL 2012 before they play the first of five ODIs against Sri Lanka on July 21, and this has ensured players like Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag, who are prone to injury, have had sufficient time to rest and recover. All India's first-choice players are expected to be available for the Sri Lanka trip when the selection committee meets in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Member of Parliament Sachin Tendulkar's case has become different from those of the rest in recent years, and having played only two ODI series since 2011 World Cup, he could decide to skip this one as well. Till Tuesday evening though, reports said he hadn't ruled himself out.
If Tendulkar does opt out, it would do away with the controversial rotation policy followed in the CB Series in Australia, when only two of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were chosen in the XI. Sehwag's absence had taken care of the same during the Asia Cup. If Tendulkar makes the trip, Manoj Tiwary, who has travelled half the world with the side without getting a game, could miss out after a lukewarm A team tour of the West Indies.
The India quicks had a disappointing Asia Cup, but the availability of Zaheer and Umesh Yadav makes the weakest link appear far less so. Ashok Dinda could keep his place after a decent show in the West Indies with the A team and in the IPL.
Whether the selectors persist with Rahul Sharma as the second specialist spinner, alongside R Ashwin, remains to be seen, given his unspectacular returns in the West Indies and the presence of an army of part-timers. Whether the selectors bring back Harbhajan Singh, who has been sidelined for almost a year and has just signed with England county Essex, also remains to be seen. The county contract, though, sends out a signal that they might have already made up their mind.
The contest for the No. 7 spot began afresh in the Asia Cup, with Yusuf Pathan returning even as Ravindra Jadeja continued to retain his place in the squad after a poor CB Series. Yusuf featured in only one game in the series and didn't get a chance to bat, so it is fair to assume that this round of the battle has only started. Yusuf, though, did have a woeful IPL, even more so than Jadeja. There is also the case for Irfan Pathan, who is nowhere near the bowler he once was, but did better than Jadeja both in the CB Series and in the Asia Cup.
Team combinations apart, another thing to watch out for is the choice of vice-captain for this series, after the position was taken from Gambhir and given to Virat Kohli for the Asia Cup.
A little over a month separates the Sri Lanka tour and the World Twenty20, which will be played in the same country. Given the disasters the last two editions of that tournament held for India, this series and the experience the combination that is picked gets could prove useful come September.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Abhishek Purohit
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