Dravid primed for ODI return
Expect Rahul Dravid, who last played an ODI in October 2007, to return. That is the likeliest solution for the recent woes against short-pitched bowling that the selection committee will arrive at, when it sits to select the team for the tri-series in Sri Lanka and the Champions Trophy. This should work in the short term as immediate solidarity in the middle order, and also in the long term if Dravid can hang on for so long as the youngsters find their feet firmly.
Dravid's success in this year's IPL makes the decision easier for the selectors, who were prompted to bring him back to the one-day fold after Virender Sehwag's injury and the younger batsmens' troubles with short-pitched bowling, highlighted most starkly in the ICC World Twenty20.
It doesn't seem likely that Sehwag will meet the fitness deadline for the Sri Lanka tri-series, but the selectors should name him in the Champions Trophy squad. He is expected to be back in action in mid-September, which makes it too tight to pick him for Sri Lanka, but gives him enough time before the Champions Trophy. How much ever the selectors might want to choose the same 15 for both events, Sehwag will be too big a temptation. A word of caution, though: replacement rules at ICC events are tough, and India might not want to push them too much. In Sehwag's absence in Sri Lanka, though, India need not find a replacement, because Sachin Tendulkar is expected back and should open the innings with Gautam Gambhir.
Also returning will be Suresh Raina, who has recovered from a hairline fracture on his thumb. Zaheer Khan, as previously reported, has been ruled out of both events and Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra and RP Singh should be given the fast-bowling duties. Munaf Patel and Sudeep Tyagi stand an outside chance in this discussion. What should make the decision easier is that three of them did well during the IPL in South Africa, where the Champions Trophy will be played. That being the fast-bowling scenario, 12 players select themselves, leaving three places open for debate.
While it is believed that left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha is under pressure from Amit Mishra, he should retain his place owing to his success in this year's IPL. Moreover, Ojha has had an impressive run in ODIs, taking 12 wickets at 28.00 in nine games. Rohit Sharma's place is a little less certain owing to a lean run of late (15 runs in three innings in the West Indies and 43 runs in three innings against major opposition in the World Twenty20), but he should hold on to his place, unless the selectors have made their mind up to send a strong message to the talented batsman who has just four half-centuries and no century in 41 ODIs.
The last place will be a toss-up between Dinesh Karthik, who did himself no harm by doing well both in the IPL and in the West Indies, Ravindra Jadeja and Abhishek Nayar. There is also a possibility that Karthik might play as a pure batsman ahead of Rohit. In Irfan Pathan's absence, Yusuf Pathan remains the only allrounder in the team, so they might want to pick either Nayar or Jadeja. If Sehwag is picked for the Champions Trophy one of the extras might have to make way.
Squad: (probable) Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, RP Singh, Pragyan Ojha/Amit Mishra and two out of Dinesh Karthik, Rohit Sharma, Abhishek Nayar, and Ravindra Jadeja
(Sehwag is likely to replace one of the last three in the Champions Trophy squad.)