While my fellow Mumbaikars will disappointed with Wasim Jaffer’s non- inclusion in the Indian team to face the visiting Australians in the first two Tests, it was heartening to the inclusion of Shikhar Dhawan a replacement for Gautam Gambhir for the opening slot.
The left- hander from Delhi had been on the fringe of a Test call- up the past two seasons, and will undoubtedly grab this opportunity with both hands. Dhawan has had a decent season in the Ranji Trophy, scoring 461 runs in seven matches an average of 51.22. But more than this healthy scores, what must have prompted Sandeep Patil & Co.
pick him could be the fact that is familiar batting with fellow Delhi teammate Virender Sehwag and the hundred he scored against England XI in a warm- up match a month ago.
The dropping of Gambhir can be attributed to poor form while not picking Jaffer, who scored heavily in the domestic season this year, proves that the wise men are sticking to the policy of picking young talent.
What other reason can be there to leave out someone who scored 835 runs in seven Ranji matches at an average of 75.90.
More than Jaffer, it must have been disheartening for young Madhya Pradesh bowler Ishwar Pandey, who took 48 scalps this Ranji season in eight matches.
The right- arm medium- fast bowler is a bright prospect, who has attracted the attention of analysts and pundits including Glenn McGrath.
Pandey’s loss is Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s gain. The 23- year old from Uttar Pradesh impressed one and all with his swing bowling against Pakistan and England.
Whether Kumar is able to repeat the success he achieved in the shorter formats of the game in Tests remains to be seen.
As far as the pace department is concerned, one is glad that the selectors decided to stick with Ashoke Dinda, who has yet to make his debut in Test cricket.
Dinda has been warming the bench for some time now and looks most likely to earn the India cap to bowl in tandem with Ishant Sharma.
As far as the middle order is concerned, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane continue to be in the squad – one to play and the other to carry the vitamins – while one does feel a bit sorry for Suresh Raina.
The left- hander hit a scintillating century against Mumbai in the Irani Cup, but couldn’t make the squad as he is not as ‘ floating’ an all- rounder as Ravindra Jadeja, who will probably play at number six or seven.
Jadeja’s three wickets against England may have tilted the scales in his favour.
What is most baffling is the selection of two off- spinners – Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh – in the Test squad.
Unlike Jadeja, these two are also ‘ floating’ all- rounders and it looks like the selectors have put the onus of playing one of the two on skipper MS Dhoni.
Let’s face it, with due respect to both spinners, they are not Erapalli Prasanna and S Venkataraghavan who came with distinct characteristics and put different assets on the table.
Ashwin hasn’t really progressed after his debut against the West Indies in 2011 and couldn’t match his counterpart Graeme Swann in the series against England.
I wish the selectors would have reposed faith in one of them and sent a strong signal to the Aussies, who have historically struggled against quality off- spin.
( The writer is a former Cricket Club of India captain and Bombay University cricketer)