Gambhir & Dhawan likely to get the nod

New Delhi: The national cricket selectors on Saturday are likely to face embarrassment of riches when they particularly pick pace bowlers for the next month’s Champions Trophy. The Sandeep Patil-headed committee had picked as many as 10 pacers among the 30 probables, considering the seamer-friendly conditions in England, and most of them seem to be in the reckoning as they have performed well in the ongoing IPL.

The selectors have to pick a 15-member squad for the June 6-23 ODI tournament, for which a fit-again Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir are likely to get the nod as openers.

As of now, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who impressed all with swing and movement in the ODI series against Pakistan and England recently, look set to be picked. Mohammad Shami Ahmed had also impressed against Pakistan and England, though he has so far got only two games for Kolkata in the IPL.

R Vinay Kumar, Ashoke Dinda, Praveen Kumar and Umesh Yadav have staked claim on the basis of their performances in the IPL while Irfan Pathan’s selection looks a bit iffy.

Among the spinners, R Ashwin is an automatic starter and leg- spinner Amit Mishra, who has bagged 16 wickets in 10 IPL games so far, could be the dark horse.

Off-spinner Perveez Rasool, who performed well in the Ranji season and against the Australians in a practice game, is the other slow bowler in the fray.

In-form Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja could also chip in with their leftarm spinners, besides their hard- hitting batting. In batting, Dhawan, who has recovered from hand injury he sustained during his world- record 187 on his Test debut against Australia in Mohali, and Gambhir are likely to staged comeback.

After missing a few matches for SunRisers Hyderabad, left-handed Dhawan hit the form straightaway and has tallied 136 runs, including an unbeaten knock of 73, in three IPL matches. Dhawan last played an ODI almost two years ago, in the West Indies.

Gambhir, on the other hand, played all five ODIs against England in January, but was dropped for the Test series against Australia that followed, owing to poor form. So, if he is picked, it would technically be a comeback to the national side.

However, the Delhi left-hander has also discovered form and the Kokata Knight Riders captain has so far scored 320 runs in 11 IPL matches, with three half-centuries.

Murali Vijay, the other contender for an opener’s berth, has just managed one half-century in eight IPL matches but is likely to be picked too. Ajinkya Rahane and Unmukt Chand are the other probable openers.

The middle order batsmen will be picked from amongst Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli, who is in tremendous form, Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma, who too is in fine nick, Yuvraj Singh, who is not having a good run for Pune Warriors India, Manoj Tiwary and Ambati Rayudu.

The selectors had picked four wicket-keepers. Apart from captain MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Wriddhiman Saha and Dinesh Karthik are the other stumpers. But it is likely that only one (Dhoni) is picked in the 15-member squad.

India have only once won the Champions Trophy, in 2002, when they shared it with Sri Lanka in Colombo after rains on successive days disrupted the final match.

India are clubbed with Pakistan, South Africa and the West Indies in Group B while Australia, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka are in Group A.

The Dhoni-captained India open their campaign against South Africa at Cardiff Wales Stadium on the first day of the tournament. Both openers are in good form in the ongoing IPL.

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