Indian team selection: what’s in store?

The national selection committee, headed by Sandeep Patil, is slated to announce the squad for the remaining two One-Day Internationals and the first two Test matches on Monday. The fourth ODI will be played at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on October 22 and the final match is in Mumbai on October 25. The first and the second Tests are to be played in Mohali (beginning on November 5) and Bangalore (beginning on November 14).

The national selection committee meeting in progress on September 20 to select the Indian team for the T20 series and the first three ODIs against South Africa. The same committee will meet on October 19 to name the Indian team for the last two ODIs and the first two Test matches.   -  PTI

The national selection committee, headed by Sandeep Patil, is slated to announce the squad for the remaining two One-Day Internationals and the first two Test matches on Monday. The fourth ODI will be played at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on October 22 and the final match is in Mumbai on October 25. The first and the second Tests are to be played in Mohali (beginning on November 5) and Bangalore (beginning on November 14).

Bowling has been a worry for the Indian side. The team suffered a major blow when Ravichandran Ashwin picked up a side strain during the first ODI in Kanpur. Fortunately for M. S. Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh – who replaced Ashwin – has shown fine form. The experienced off-spinner picked up two wickets in the second ODI. If Ashwin is rested, to preserve him ahead of the Test series, Harbhajan should be a part of the team.

Dhoni made it clear after the toss in Rajkot that spinners have been India’s strength even though fast bowlers are yet to get their full quota of bowling. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who picked up three wickets in Indore, bowled only 8.4 overs. Umesh Yadav was replaced by Amit Mishra in the third match, thus, giving a fair idea of Dhoni sticking with his spin options going forward in the series. Chepauk and Wankhede both have supported spinners in recent times.

India’s batting has been mixed and the team will be hoping to see Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina click in the remaining ODIs. The three batsmen last scored a century in the ICC World Cup 2015. Fortunately, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Dhoni himself have come out and played crucial innings.

The final two ODIs may see Ravindra Jadeja back in the squad. Jadeja, who is currently playing for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy, has picked up 24 wickets from two matches so far. Moreover, he has scored 91 and 58 in Ranji so far, and can provide strength in the batting lower order. It will be interesting to see whether Stuart Binny, Ambati Rayudu or Gurkeerat Singh Mann is dropped to fit in Jadeja.

A few other changes in the batting may be that of Shreyas Iyer, Unmukt Chand or Mandeep Singh. Rayudu got two matches but failed to click and looked out of place. Iyer, Chand and Mandeep have done considerably well in the ongoing Ranji season. In case the selectors decide to let a few fresh talents in and look beyond Rayudu, the youngsters may earn spots in the squad. However, whether they will be able to fit in the playing eleven depends on the series situation.

The selectors will have a tough time selecting a replacement for Ishant Sharma in the first Test. Adding to the one Test ban after his on-field altercation with Dhammika Prasad during the Sri Lanka tour, Ishant picked up a hamstring injury during the Ranji Trophy match against Haryana and did not take further part in the match.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav will be the best bet for Dhoni. If luck permits, then Sreenath Aravind may find a place in the Test squad, owing to his consistent performances in the domestic matches. Aravind, who was part of India’s Twenty20 International (T20I) squad, returned to the Karnataka side and picked up four wickets. Ashwin is expected to be back by the time the Test series starts and he along with Harbhajan and Mishra will provide the spin options. In case, the selectors decide to go further deep in the line-up, they may get Jadeja back in the Test squad too.

The Test series will also see the return of Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, with K. L. Rahul as the reserve opening option. Wriddhiman Saha will take over the wicketkeeper’s role, with Naman Ojha being his likely backup. Rohit, Dhawan, and Rahane will provide further strength to Kohli’s batting line-up.

The South African team have already provided a few glimpses of how accustomed the current squad is to Indian conditions. For the Indians, as much as the likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy should be a worry, that much should also be the likes of Imran Tahir, Dale Steyn and even newcomer Simon Harmer.