Sehwag is the surprise

PTI

The range of surfaces across Australia requires balance and variety in the bowling, and much will depend on how much the Kookaburra ball swings, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

Of the Indian Test squad picked to tour Australia, Harsha Bhogle, writing in the ‘Indian Express’, summarised thus: “Among the batsmen he (Anil Kumble) doesn’t know whom to drop and among the bowlers he doesn’t know whom to pick!” A convenient aphorism, and piquant too, for the biggest surprise in the 16-man touring party was the inclusion of Virender Sehwag as second — or was it third? — opener. Not part of the 24 probables the selectors had announced, the Delhi batsman found himself in the final 16 when Gautam Gambhir went down with an injury.

With Yuvraj Singh making a publicly compelling case for inclusion in a stuffed middle-order, it isn’t as yet clear how Kumble will fit Sehwag in. Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik were effective at the top of the order in England, contributing significantly to the series win. It was therefore strange that Karthik, on the basis of scores of 9, 1, 1 and 28 as opener against Pakistan, was under pressure to keep his spot.

In theory, Sehwag’s presence as a game-breaker allows Kumble an ace up his sleeve. Sehwag, however, hasn’t been among the runs in domestic cricket; on the other hand, the 29-year-old’s incredible hand-eye co-ordination enables him to play straight-up pace, likely to be on show in Australia, rather well.

The bowling will miss the injured Sreesanth. His antics caused him to be cast as a pantomime villain in England, but he was exactly what India has often lacked abroad: a quick, nasty, unpredictable third seamer. In his absence, can India assemble a bowling attack to take 20 wickets?

The range of surfaces across Australia requires balance and variety in the bowling, and much will depend on how much the Kookaburra ball swings.

TOUR ITINERARY TEST SERIES

December 26-30, 2007: First Test, Melbourne Cricket Ground.

January 2-6, 2008: Second Test, Sydney Cricket Ground.

January 16-20, 2008: Third Test, WACA Ground, Perth.

January 24-28, 2008: Fourth Test, Adelaide Oval.

TWENTY20 INTERNATIONAL

February 1, 2008: India v Australia, Melbourne Cricket Ground.

TRIANGULAR ONE-DAY SERIES (India’s matches)

February 3, 2008: Australia v India, Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba; February 5: India v Sri Lanka, Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba; February 10: Australia v India, Melbourne Cricket Ground; February 12: India v Sri Lanka, Manuka Oval, Canberra; February 17: Australia v India, Adelaide Oval; February 19: India v Sri Lanka, Adelaide Oval; February 24: Australia v India, Sydney Cricket Ground; February 26: India v Sri Lanka, Bellerive Oval, Hobart; March 2: 1st Final — TBC v TBC, Sydney Cricket Ground; March 4: 2nd Final — TBC v TBC, Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba; March 7: 3rd Final — TBC v TBC, Adelaide Oval (if required).

* * * THE TEAM

Anil Kumble (captain), Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicketkeeper), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma and Pankaj Singh.