Omission of Rayudu is rather strange

Kohli back to form... that is good news.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Virat Kohli will be leading the team in the first Test, in Australia, as well with Dhoni rendered unfit, and this may be yet another opportunity for him to gain some invaluable experience.

India made light work of the Sri Lankans in the one-day series under a new captain with youngsters making a name for themselves. The likes of Rayudu and Rohit Sharma have shown encouraging signs but Rayudu might be miffed in not gaining the selectors’ favour for the Test team to Australia. Rohit Sharma returned from a brief hiatus due to injury with a record creating performance, thereby justifying the confidence reposed in his talent. But most importantly, Virat Kohli has handled the responsibility of captaincy without allowing it to affect his batting. Team India needs him to be in nick and his return to form should go down as the biggest positive in the recently concluded series.

Kohli will be leading the team in the first Test, in Australia, as well with Dhoni rendered unfit, and this may be yet another opportunity for him to gain some invaluable experience. It does seem that the process of succession of captaincy is in place and therefore, opportunities to lead will only help to make Kohli well prepared when he takes the mantle from his predecessor. Kohli and Dhoni will have the luxury of choosing from a 19-member squad, a first of its kind in a way. The decision of the selectors to pick a big squad can be looked at in two ways — one is that the team management will have a lot of options to choose from and the other is that plenty to choose from can create a fair amount of hesitancy.

The omission of Rayudu is rather strange even though 19 players have been picked. He is likely to figure later on in the one-dayers and the World Cup and as such, his inclusion would have helped him to get used to the conditions and pitches. Moreover, he was picked in the Test squad in the past and did not get a game. Hence dropping him without giving him a chance does not justify both the decisions — his inclusion earlier and his omission now. There is no doubt that all the players have been picked on their performances but three keepers for four Tests is one too many. I say this despite the fact that Dhoni will be ready only from the second Test onwards.

Naman Ohja has performed incredibly well while turning out for the India A teams, but the chances of him playing are slim. He will not be considered as a pure batsman and unless (God forbid) the other two keepers sustain injury, there is no way he will figure in the scheme of things. I am not suggesting he is not good enough but at times, the prevailing circumstances and immediate future need to be considered. The selectors would have probably felt that not rewarding Ohja for his stupendous deeds might be harsh but then of course, the job of a selector has never been easy.

The Test series will be interesting as Team India has more experience and fire power in the bowling department than it did the last time around. Varun Aaron, Yadav and Shami can make the batsmen hop which will be a key factor. One has to remember that England won the Ashes whenever their fast bowlers were on top of their game. A combo of pace (Shami and Aaron) and swing (Kumar and Sharma) can work wonders if they get their act right.

The batting line up is good enough and they need to take heart from the manner in which they batted in South Africa. The problem in England was the deviation off the pitch due to the pronounced seam on the balls used there, but that may not be the case in Australia. The pitches in Australia will have bounce and carry as the ones in South Africa. As a result, the Indian batsmen will be confident as they embark on what will be a long, tough and challenging tour down under.