Having missed the IPL to undergo shoulder surgery to be fit for the Test series against Sri Lanka, Murali Vijay will be utterly disappointed to have missed out on the upcoming three-match series that begins on July 26. Shikhar Dhawan has been announced as his replacement for the Test series and will be looking to make the most of the Tamil Nadu batsman's absence.
On the back of impressive performances in the IPL, finishing as the leading run-scorer in the Champions Trophy 2017 and two fifties in the five-match ODI series against West Indies helped Dhawan secure his spot in the side. Although there is no doubt that Dhawan deserved a spot in the side, there were others India have gone with as well, to replace Vijay.
Here are 5 players who could have replaced Murali Vijay instead of Shikhar Dhawan:
#1 Gautam Gambhir
Having played for India in the series against England in 2016, Gautam Gambhir can certainly count himself unlucky to not have made it into the Indian squad to face Sri Lanka as a replacement for Murali Vijay. The southpaw wasn't in great form last season in the Ranji Trophy and that might be what Shikhar Dhawan was picked ahead of him.
Over 4,000 Test runs at an average of over 40 highlights just how consistent Gambhir has been at the top of the order for India in the longest format of the game. But Dhawan's excellent form in the Champions Trophy meant that the 35-year-old was overlooked after Murali Vijay's injury.
With Abhinav Mukund already in the squad, it will be interesting to see if Dhawan does indeed feature in the Test series or is just there as a back-up.
#2 Parthiv Patel
After impressive performances in the domestic circuit, Parthiv Patel emerged from the wilderness to replace the injured Wriddhiman Saha during the Test series against England. He was brilliant too, scoring two fifties in three Tests in which he averaged 65. But he hasn't made an appearance since then.
The 32-year-old wicketkeeper batsman showed that he is more than an able understudy for Saha. With no other keepers in the squad that will tour Sri Lanka, it was surprising to see Parthiv overlooked. Partly due to the balance that he brings to the side and also to the experience that he has.
Capable of opening the innings as he showed against England or playing in the middle-order, he would have been an ideal addition to the side. Especially considering that there is no replacement for Saha in the current squad.
#3 Rishabh Pant
Only three players scored more runs than Rishabh Pant in the 2016/17 Ranji Trophy but none of them scored those runs at a better strike rate than the Indian U-19 star. Nearly 1,000 runs in a Ranji season is a remarkable achievement and the fact that he got those runs at a strike rate of nearly 110 and average of over 80 just highlights how dominant he was during the season.
Later in the season, he even got the Delhi captaincy and before the season was done, had even represented India in a T20I. Since then he has played one more T20I (against West Indies), was part of the ODI series against West Indies but hasn't even come close to being considered for the Test spot. Although he is a middle-order batsman in the longest format of the game, he can bring the sense of urgency that is sometimes lacking in the Test side.
That he is already on the fringes of the limited-overs side shows that the selectors think that he is good enough to play for India. Perhaps, one season is too season to bring in a 19-year-old into the Test side but it certainly would have done him no harm to be in the squad on an away tour early in his career.
#4 Shreyas Iyer
Forever the bridesmaid, never the bride, has been the story of Shreyas Iyer. The Mumbai batsman has been in scintillating form in the domestic circuit for the past few years and yet he has failed to make his international debut. This time around, he didn't even feature in the squad for the Sri Lanka series and has been overlooked once again after Vijay's injury.
He was brought in as a replacement for Virat Kohli for the final Test against Australia and although he didn't play, the fact that he was on the fringes of the side, makes his exclusion all the more surprising.
Although he isn't an opener, the fact that India already have a reserve opener in Abhinav Mukund means that they could have gone with the middle-order batsman especially with the away tours coming up in the next 18 months. Karun Nair's poor form led to his exclusion but despite sparkling domestic form, the youngster hasn't got his chance just yet.
Forever warming the benches, Iyer deserves a go sooner rather than later. While the likes of Rohit Sharma have walked back into the Test squad despite injury forcing him out for a while, it is unfair to keep the 22-year-old batsman waiting for too much longer.
#5 Priyank Panchal
Last season was a breakout year for 27-year-old Gujarat opener Priyank Panchal. Although the right-hander has been consistent form in the first-class circuit, 2016/17 was the season in which he saw the door for national selection and after years of gently knocking on it, decided to break the door down through sheer volume of runs.
The leading run-scorer in last year's Ranji Trophy, Panchal was in simply sensational form and was one of the main reasons behind Gujarat's maiden Ranji title. No player managed over 1,000 runs in last year's tournament barring Panchal who scored 1,310 runs in 10 matches at an average of 87.33. His five centuries and four fifties, including an unbeaten 314 meant he fell just 105 short of breaking VVS Laxman’s record of most runs in a season.
His incredible performances earned him an India A call-up and yet he was overlooked for the Sri Lanka series, despite being the most in-form opener in the longest format of the game. While Dhawan has been in sparkling form in ODIs, was the leading run-scorer in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, his last Test for India was in October 2016 against New Zealand.