It has been anticipated as the revenge series by Indian Cricket fans. But for the members of Indian Test team, its a matter of restoring their Pride which was missing since the series losses to both England(both home and away) and Australia. The return leg of Border-Gavaskar Trophy is all set to get kicked off at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium(Chepauk), Chennai from february 22, 2013. The Australians sans Ricky Ponting and Mr. Cricket Mike Hussey have started to arrive in batches and are looking to get enough match practice under their belt ahead of the Grudge series. With the Indian selectors springing some surprises in the squad they picked for the first two tests, we shall look at the composition of the team before they take on the new look Australians in 12 days time.
MS Dhoni (capt.), Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ashok Dinda.
The Indian selectors chaired by Sandip Patil took a bold decision by dropping the out of form opener Gautam Gambhir and persisting with the Nawab of Najafgarh Virender Sehwag who had a ordinary series against England. Their move to drop Gambhir was expected as the team management was looking to form a new combination at the top.With the exclusion of GG, one would have expected seasoned Wasim Jaffer to replace him. But the selectors went in for youth rather than experience. Virender Sehwag keeps his place in the team as he has the ability to give India a aggressive start. Test team discards Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Rookie Shikhar Dhawan got a call up for the National team. Murali Vijay had a disappointing season for Tamil Nadu with a total of 138 runs in 8 innings @ 17.25 runs per innings. But a century for Rest Of India against Mumbai in the just concluded Irani Trophy should have turned the things in his favour. On the other hand, Delhi batsman Shikhar Dhawan had a successful domestic season in which he scored 524 runs in 13 innings @ 47.62 runs per innings. Ajinkya Rahane who was with the team for a while was retained from the test team which lost to England in 2012.
Players who missed out
Experienced Mumbai opener Wasim Jaffer scored centuries in two Ranji Trophy knockout matches and in Irani Cup. Having helped Mumbai to win the Ranji trophy for a record 40th time in history by scoring 835 runs in 11 innings @ 75.90 runs per innings and a total of 181 runs in the Irani Trophy, Jaffer looked certain to make it to the test squad after a gap of 5 years. But the selectors deciding to go with inexperienced openers didnt help his cause.
Rookie Punjab opener Jiwanjot Singh could not have asked for a better start to his First-Class career by scoring a Double Hundred in his Debut innings. He was also the leading run scorer in the Ranji Trophy with 995 runs in 17 innings @ 66.33 runs per innings. It also earned him a spot in the India A squad to face the Australian XI in Chennai from 16 February,2013. With an outstanding domestic season, it is disappointing to leave out the promising opener for the tests vs Australia.
Middle Order Batsmen
Post Dravid-VVS era, the Indian team is struggling to find a prefect replacement for them. With Manoj Tiwary coming back from an injury after 2 months and both Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma not in best of form, the selectors made a gamble by picking only three frontline batsmen to form the middle order for the tests against Aussies. Cheteshwar Pujara who grabbed the opportunities that came his way, is all set to come out all guns blazing against the Aussies. Like England, the Aussie bowlers will find it difficult to break the Wall which is under construction. after the Retirement of Rahul Dravid. With Virat Kohli failing to replicate his success in 2012 to 2013, the century he scored against England in the fourth test at Nagpur should give him confidence against the Aussies.0 The biggest worry comes in the form of Sachin Tendulkar who was’nt at his best during the series against New Zealand and England. With his feets not going to the pitch of the ball, The bowlers have started to breach his Defense. The only thing to cheer about Sachin is his performances in Ranji Trophy and Irani Trophy where he scored a much needed 140*. The only Million Dollar question is that “Can Sachin trash Starc and co. as he usually does in what may be his last test series in India ?”
Players who missed out
Raina was the second leading run scorer for India in the ODI series against Pakistan and against England he was the leading run scorer as he went on to score 4 fifties in four innings which won him the Man of the Series award. In the Irani Trophy, He was declared the man of the match after scoring a century in the first innings followed by a 71 in the second innings. Probably the only batsman in-form ahead of the Australian series. After the announcement of test squad, he went on to tweet “Disappointed about being overlooked for the first 2 Tests. Don’t know what was lacking but won’t let it dishearten me. Still going strong”. Surely some kind of justice should be given to him.
Rayudu single handedly took Baroda close to the Ranji Knockouts in the absence of Pathan Brothers. Having Scored 666 runs in 13 innings @ 60.54 runs per innings in Ranji Trophy plus a match saving 156 for Rest Of India in the Irani trophy shows the kind of form he is in. He can also don the Keeping gloves if MS Dhoni gets injured in the last minute. He should consider himself unlucky for not finding a place in the squad.
As expected skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be the man behind the stumps. With the selectors’ decision to go on with only one Wicket-Keeper, the onus is on MS Dhoni to be careful with his workload ahead of the Grudge series. The Skipper who chose to play in the Corporate trophy ahead of Irani Trophy is short of match practice in the longer version of the game. The likes of Rayudu, Wridhiman Saha were overlooked for the Keeper’s slot.
The Indian Fast Bowling which is termed as the weak link of the test team for the last few years had received a major blow after the spearheads Experienced Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav were ruled out for the next 6 weeks. Praveen Kumar is back from a long layoff and Varun Aaron is yet to recover from his back injury. This means the Indian fast bowling line up which will face Warner and co has not played a single test but for Ishant Sharma who has played in 47 tests capturing 137 wickets. With Ishant struggling for fitness, the Team management has to monitor him closely to spearhead the bowling attack. India’s latest Pace sensation Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been rewarded for his outstanding performances in the past. It is not yet known on what basis did the selectors went for Ashok Dinda ahead of Shami Ahmed, S. Sreesanth and Ishwar Pandey.
Players who missed out
Promising Bengal pacer Shami Ahmed who made his ODI debut in the ODI series against Pakistan had a impressive run in the 5 ODI’s he had played till date. In the domestic season he picked up 28 wickets in 10 innings. He has the pace along with some lateral movement to trouble the batsmen.
The Kerala pacer was out for nearly 6 months due to an injury. He made his comeback for Kerala and captured 12 wickets in 4 innings. He was also included in the Rest Of India squad to face Mumbai where he was impressive by bowling with a lot of pace supported by good line and length. HE even troubled the Mumbai batsmen including Sachin. He also has some experience on the international stage where he had captured 87 wickets in 27 matches.
The Madhya Pradesh bowler was the leading wicker taker in the Ranji Trophy with 48 scalps in 15 innings. He was impressive in the Irani Trophy too. The only thing which went against him should be his experience at the highest level. If he continues his good work, he will be representing India sooner than later.
The only department in which India betters their Aussie counterparts is the spin bowling department.With the Turbanator Harbhajan Singh is back to haunt his favourite opposition, the Spin bowling department which includes R.Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha seems to be gear up for the ultimate test. The credits has to be given to the selectors for picking up Bhajji after his inconsistent show in International Arena for the last 1 year.
With Irfan Pathan Injured, Ravindra Jadeja holds on to the All-Rounder’s spot in the team. He is fresh from an remarkable Ranji season for Saurashtra where he scored 2 triple hundreds and took some valuable wickets. In the ODI series against England his all-round performances helped India to win the series 2-1. He is well supported by R. Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar who can be handy with the bat.
Players who missed out
He was declared the Most Valuable Player in the Ranji Trophy where he scored 966 runs in 17 innings and took 19 Wickets in 11 innings. He was the one of the main reason why Mumbai went on to win their 40th Ranji title. He was also impressive in the Irani Trophy where he led Mumbai. Did the selectors miss a cue in omitting Nayar for the tests against Austraia?
Thus, the selectors made some surprises in the test team to face Australia. But the Question is, “Does this inexperienced team have enough fire power to beat the Aussies?” Let’s hope that the Revenge Series doesn’t turn out to be a Recap Series.