Yuvraj Singh is the top contender to replace Sourav Ganguly, who retired last month, in the Indian squad for the two-Test series against England, which will be picked in Chennai on Thursday afternoon. Gautam Gambhir, handed a one-Test ban by match referee Chris Broad for elbowing Australia's Shane Watson during the Delhi Test, will return for the series, scheduled to start in Chennai on December 11.
Yuvraj, who last played a Test against South Africa in Kanpur in April, has virtually sealed his berth after his imperious display in the ODI series against England. He ended as the top run-maker with two spectacular centuries, reversing a lean start at the beginning of the season. In the three Challenger Trophy games he had single-digit scores and failed in the solitary Ranji match he played before the England series. But the selectors, including chairman Kris Srikkanth, recently indicated that Yuvraj would be the best man to fill Ganguly's middle-order slot.
It's not unclear whether the selectors will retain M Vijay, who was plucked out of a Ranji game to fill in for Gambhir in the Nagpur Test against Australia. They face a hard choice between Vijay and S Badrinath, who was part of the squad against Australia. Though Badrinath has been seen as the frontrunner in the past to play in the middle order, Vijay was impressive against the new ball and as a close-in fielder.
The chance of any fresh face(s) being picked in the middle order remains slim, but the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma cannot be ruled out. Rohit was part of the Test squad in Sri Lanka while Pujara has scored three triple centuries for Saurashtra - one in the Ranji Trophy and two in an Under-22 tournament -- this season. Their cause would have been helped had England's lone practice game gone ahead.
The bowling unit is likely to be retained, with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma sharing the new ball and Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra the two specialist spinners. Munaf Patel will continue to be the third seamer but the fate of his partner, RP Singh, is unclear. There were reported differences between Dhoni and the selection panel over RP's selection ahead of the ODI series against England and it boiled over into a controversy after a selector leaked it to a member of the press.
Current indications are that the selectors will pick a 14-man squad but if they opt for 15, it could include a third spinner. Piyush Chawla is the leading candidate, especially given Pragyan Ojha's shoulder injury, picked up while fielding in the Cuttack ODI against England.
Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, M Vijay/S Badrinath, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt, wk), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Munaf Patel, RP Singh.