Sourav Ganguly, the former India captain, believes Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag should be handed Test comebacks, given the overseas challenges India have lined up next year. He also backed Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina for the No. 4 and No. 6 spots in the line-up.
"They [Sehwag and Zaheer] must immediately be brought back into the Test side," Ganguly told the Indian Express. "Don't forget India will be playing 13 Tests overseas in the next one year or so. You need players with pedigree and experience in those conditions. And Sehwag and Zaheer have those qualities.
"Zaheer still is the best pace bowler India have. He can do so many things with the ball. I assure you that both Sehwag and Zaheer are not yet finished."
Following a prolonged slump, Zaheer was dropped from the Test side late last year, and Sehwag last played a Test in March. They were ignored in subsequent A squads, but got call-ups for the West Indies A series that led into the new domestic season. While Zaheer seemed to get back in rhythm the more he bowled against West Indies A, picking up seven wickets in four innings, Sehwag failed to register any score of note. However, that should not be held against Sehwag, Ganguly said: "A player of Sehwag's class shouldn't be judged on his performance in domestic cricket and List A games. He should be judged by his Test record."
Following the West Indies Tests at home, India have two matches in South Africa, two in New Zealand and five in England already scheduled until next August. And with Tendulkar set to retire against West Indies, the No. 4 slot in the Test line-up will be left vacant for the first time in years. The No. 6 slot, which Ganguly vacated in 2008, is also yet to be permanently filled, with none of the younger players impressing sufficiently. Ganguly said Rohit, who has played over 100 ODIs but has underachieved, is the best man for No. 4. He has a remarkable first-class average of 60.78 in 58 games, but is yet to make his Test debut. Raina, meanwhile, could slot in at No. 6, Ganguly said.
"Yes, a couple of places would be up for grabs, No. 4 and No. 6. You need a specialist batsman at No.6 in overseas conditions. And my choices are Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina respectively. They have the game and are the best options available."
Bengal pacer Mohammed Shami, who had troubled Australia with pace and bounce in the Ranchi ODI on Wednesday and whom Ganguly had captained in domestic games, is also ready for Test cricket, he said. "Not only limited-overs cricket, Shami is ready for Tests as well. He should be there in the Test side. He has got the pace, has the ability to move the ball, can bowl yorkers and has a deceptive bouncer that troubles batsmen."
There is no doubt about Yuvraj Singh's place in the one-day side, leading up to the 2015 World Cup, he said. "India need Yuvraj in the next World Cup. He's a match-winner, so don't write him off after just a couple of failures [in the Australia ODIs]. He got two good deliveries. Yuvraj must be persisted with."