Yuvraj Singh, who was dropped for the recently concluded Asia Cup, has been recalled to India's squad for the three-Test series in Sri Lanka starting July 18. Suresh Raina, who has been part of Test squads before as injury cover, made it as a first-choice player for the first time. As expected, the selectors went back to Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth to partner Zaheer Khan in the pace department, and three spinners were selected, which meant both Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha were in. A 16-man member squad was chosen to include a reserve wicketkeeper, Wriddhiman Saha.
Earlier this month, Yuvraj was dropped from the limited-overs side for the first time since he cemented his place in the early 2000s. Fitness, more than form, was seen as the reason behind the move: he hadn't been in droppable form in international cricket. The drop was seen as a necessary wake-up call for him. Captain MS Dhoni, however, is a big fan of Yuvraj's talent, and could have insisted that he be recalled. The selectors perhaps thought that the necessary message had been delivered.
The other middle-order selection was due. Raina was part of the squad for India's last Test, against South Africa in February, but only because of a spate of injuries. Since then he has shown he can survive in international cricket despite an obvious weakness against the short ball. It cannot be denied that he has been scoring consistently despite that awkwardness.
A week after he played a winning hand against Pakistan in the Asia Cup, ticking the box of performing in pressure situations, Raina is confident, willing and fit. It is perhaps the best time to put him through the big test, to find out if he can emulate the likes of Steve Waugh and Sourav Ganguly, who were successful in Tests even though Waugh eliminated the hook shot and Ganguly always had to work hard to fight his weakness against the short ball. To think of Waugh and Ganguly is a step too far, but Raina deserved a chance to fail, and he has earned it.
Ishant and Sreesanth, part of India's last Test squad, have gone through pretty ordinary times in limited-overs cricket since then, both in the IPL and while playing for India. They were duly dropped, but are still the best bets for the Test side. More so because none of the alternatives tried in their absence have impressed enough. And Ashish Nehra is not willing to play Tests, while Praveen Kumar is strictly a limited-overs bowler.
More importantly, this selection could point to a practical outlook from the selectors, that of having identified Ishant and Sreesanth as Test specialists, and having realised the need to protect them from the excessive one-day cricket, which could have played a part in their downfall.
Lack of alternatives could have prompted India to go for three spinners, giving Ojha another chance in a Test squad. India, however, are likely to play two seamers and two spinners barring extraordinary circumstances, and the three-day game at Nondescripts Cricket Club should provide a good competition between Ishant and Sreesanth, and Mishra and Ojha.
Squad: MS Dhoni (wk & capt.), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag (vice-capt.), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, M Vijay, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Wriddhiman Saha (wk)