But like they say with statistics, selection meetings in Indian cricket too often conceal more than they reveal. And the plans Sandeep Patil & Co seem to have in store for young Kumar turned paradoxical after he wasn’t named in any of the three squads — Rest of India, Board President’s XI and India A-picked. It either could mean that the national selectors have seen enough of him and are now preserving their new-found swing exponent in cotton wool. Or probably they have abruptly changed their stance overnight regarding his Test credentials. Only time will tell.
Speaking of paradoxes and enigmas, Mumbai stylist Rohit Sharma seems to have reignited the selectors’ interest with his breezy 83 at Mohali. And in addition to representing Mumbai in the Irani Cup next week, he has been called up for the India A squad against Australia in the visitors’ three-day practice match scheduled to be held in Chennai.
One final push
While generally the end of a Ranji Trophy season brings a sense of calm around the domestic cricket circuit, this time around the business end might have come around a bit belatedly for a few individuals in particular. And the last 15 days leading up to India’s clash against Michael Clarke & Co could well end up being make-or-break for a number of players vying for Test spots with one eye-catching performance sure to enhance their chances considerably. The two weeks are also sure to keep Patil and his colleagues on their feet as they look to shore up Team India’s resources as Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men look to regain their pride after the embarrassing reversal against England.
Though Kumar doesn’t find a place, his new-ball partner Shami Ahmed has been picked both in the Rest of India squad as well as the BP XI for Australia’s opening two-day warm-up fixture, again in Chennai. The Bengal pacer impressed both with his pace and accuracy in his limited-overs opportunities and will certainly be watched closely by the selectors. Meanwhile, to their credit, the likes of Ishwar Pandey and Dhawal Kulkarni made the most of their responsibilities for Madhya Pradesh and Mumbai respectively, with impressive showings in the Ranji Trophy.
And with Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav out with injury, the young pacers have reason to bend their backs and go full throttle. With an impressive Test career already up his sleeve, the returning S Sreesanth too will be aware that he could well be just one impressive spell away from an elusive comeback.
Sehwag to lead ROI
Interestingly, each of the three squads will be captained by an opener with Virender Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund set to don the leader’s badge. Dhawan too is among the lot, who will get to shots at the cherry while Punjab’s new sensation Jiwanjot Singh gets a deserved maiden call-up.
The stage is, however, set for Rohit Sharma to finally grab his much-awaited Test cap with a major score under the selectors’ glare. But he won’t be the only one eying the No.6 spot, which Yuvraj Singh seems to have vacated for now.
Suresh Raina has certainly brought himself back into contention with a string of half-centuries against England in the ODIs, while the prodigal Manoj Tiwary is around as always. Ajinkya Rahane, no longer considered as an opener, too will be in the reckoning, while Baroda’s temperamental Ambati Rayudu could well be a dark horse if he can showcase his talent through numbers against Mumbai and Australia.
Ravichandran Ashwin, India’s spin spearhead, might be sitting a tad uneasy, after he was not picked in any of the squads while spin partner Pragyan Ojha is a part of the ROI outfit, which also includes veteran Harbhajan Singh.
And as a gruesome winter eases out around the country, things might just be heating up prematurely for a number of India’s fringe players as they look for a springboard into the Test squad.
Rest of India: Virender Sehwag (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Manoj Tiwary, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, Pragyan Ojha, Ishwar Pandey, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ambati Rayudu, Shami Ahmed, Jalaj Saxena.
Board President’s XI: Abhinav Mukund (captain), Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu, Mandeep Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Parthiv Patel, Stuart Binny, Sarabjit Ladda, Parveez Rasool, Mohammed Shami, Parvinder Awana, Kamlesh Makwana.
India ‘A’: Shikhar Dhawan (captain), Jiwanjot Singh, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Ajinkya Rahane, CM Gautam, Rakesh Dhruv, Jalaj Saxena, Manpreet Gony, Vinay Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ashok Menaria.