Sehwag, Zaheer to make comeback against West Indies 'A'

BCCI announces five squads for upcoming home fixtures.

Sehwag, Yuvraj and Zaheer

Virender Sehwag
and Zaheer Khan were the notable admissions to the India ‘A’ squad that will play the visiting West Indies ‘A’ in two four-day games in October.

Gautam Gambhir is also part of that squad, but the most eye-catching inclusion is of Mohammad Kaif, who last donned the blue in 2006.

Ahead of a packed cricket calendar, the senior selection committee of the BCCI announced five different squads that will play the visiting Caribbean side and the season-opening one-day tournament, the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy.

The West Indies 'A' team will play three one-dayers, one T20 and three Tests starting September 15. All games will be played in Bangalore, Mysore, Hubli and Shimoga.

Yuvraj Singh, another out-of-favour veteran of the senior team, is to captain India 'A' squad in the limited overs leg, all of which will be played in Bangalore. Yuvraj will also captain India Blue in the Challenger Trophy. Irfan Pathan has been named captain of India Red. Delhi, who won the Vijay Hazare Trophy this year, are the third team in the competition.

Cheteshwar Pujara, who had recently led India on an 'A' tour of South Africa will lead the team in the four-day unofficial Tests.

The selectors have named two separate squads for the two Tests. The first squad that will play the first Test in Mysore is a largely unbroken one, with only Ashoke Dinda and Mohammad Shami having represented the senior national team.

The squad for the next two Tests (in Shimoga and Hubli) is a much experienced one carrying Zaheer, Sehwag, Gambhir and Kaif.

Infographic by Hindustan Times, March 2013

THE SEHWAG CASE

Sehwag, who will be 35 on October 20, is returning to competitive cricket having fared abysmally for much of the period since his comeback from shoulder surgery in mid-2011.

With his place in the Indian squad under question, Sehwag briefly seemed to have found his touch with a hundred in the Ahmedabad Test against England in December. But the hundred was followed by a string of failures across all formats following which he was dropped from the squad for the last two Tests in the Australia series that India won 4-0.

Sehwag's epochal drop in form also coincides with reports of disagreements with his captain MS Dhoni. Incidentally, he has also started wearing corrective glasses indicating that all is not well with his eyesight which may have played havoc with his legendary hand-eye coordination. He performed poorly, much like the rest of the Delhi Daredevils team in IPL 2013, scoring just 295 runs in 13 outings. In his absence, Shikhar Dhawan has grabbed the opener's position with four hundreds this year, including an unforgettable 187 on Test debut against Australia.

But being a match winner of a special kind, a fit and fine Sehwag remains important to India's plans, especially for the 2015 World Cup. And if he needs to prove he isn't finished, he only needs to make some tall scores.

Zaheer Khan

THE ZAHEER CASE

Like Sehwag, Zaheer will turn 35 in October. India's lead striker for many years, Zaheer has 295 Test and 282 ODI wickets. Should he chose to call it a day today, he would be without doubt ranked among India's best. But he continues to strive to extend his playing days.

Working against him are his age and a body ravaged by injuries. He's had a frustrating time and his latest comeback bid to the Indian team ended in heartbreak last year when he was dropped from the Test squad due to poor performance in home series against New Zealand and England. Immediately afterwards, he suffered a calf injury and remained inactive through the summer. By the time he returned to play a couple of games towards the end of IPL 2013, India had decided to look elsewhere while selecting the squad for the Champions Trophy in England.

Zaheer, along with Yuvraj, then went to France to work with physical trainer Tim Exeter to improve their strength and endurance levels. While he gets full points for not giving up, Zaheer's fitness history shows he belongs to a high-risk category of players who unfortunately cannot be relied upon to last through marquee tournaments. It would be a surprise if India pick him for the 2015 World Cup. These worries notwithstanding, Zaheer is also headed to Cape Town to train with Gary Kirsten.

Yuvraj and Gambhir

THE YUVRAJ AND GAMBHIR CASE

Two of India's World Cup heroes now find themselves at the fringes. A year after winning the World Cup, Yuvraj transcended the world of sport by defeating cancer and returning to the Indian team. He hasn't been able to do enough to stay there but he hasn't given up.

Gambhir on the other hand has his form and technique to worry about. His ungainly off-side dabs and reported run-ins with his captain Dhoni have worked against him. And as long as Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan are dealing in hundreds, Gambhir will not be able to regain his opener's slot. Not picked for the 'A' tours to South Africa and Zimbabwe, Gambhir chose to turn out for Essex where he has scores of 31, 21, 2, 0 and 106 so far.

What Yuvraj and Gambhir have working for them are their age and determination. With a little bit of perseverance and hard work, they'll be wearing that dark blue jersey again.

FIXTURES:

One-dayers vs West Indies A: September 15, 17, 19 at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore.

T20 vs West Indies A: September 21 at Bangalore.

Unofficial Tests vs West Indies A: Sep 25-28 (Mysore), Oct 2-5 (Shomiga) and Oct 9-13 (Hubli).

INDIA ‘A’ SQUAD FOR THE THREE ONE-DAY GAMES AND ONE T20 GAME AGAINST WEST INDIES ‘A’

Yuvraj Singh (Captain), Unmukt Chand, Robin Uthappa, Baba Aparajith, Kedar Jadhav, Naman Ojha  (Wicketkeeper), Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Jaydev Unadkat, Praveen Kumar, Sumit Narwal, Shahbaz Nadeem, Mandeep Singh, Rahul Sharma

INDIA ‘A’ SQUAD FOR THE FIRST FOUR-DAY MATCH AGAINST WEST INDIES ‘A’

Cheteshwar Pujara (Captain), Jiwanjot Singh, K.L. Rahul, Manpreet Juneja, Rajat Paliwal, Harshad Khadiwale, Parvez Rasool, Bhargav Bhatt, Ishwar Chand Pandey, Mohammed Shami, Ashoke Dinda, Rohit Motwani  (Wicketkeeper), Dhawal Kulkarni, Paras Dogra,

INDIA ‘A’ SQUAD FOR THE SECOND AND THIRD FOUR-DAY GAMES AGAINST WEST INDIES ‘A’

Cheteshwar Pujara (Captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sheldon Jackson, Abhishek Nayar, Paras Dogra, Uday Kaul (Wicketkeeper), Parvez Rasool, Bhargav Bhatt, Dhawal Kulkarni, Zaheer Khan, Ishwar Chand Pandey, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Kaif

INDIA RED SQUAD FOR THE NKP SALVE CHALLENGER TROPHY

Irfan Pathan  (Captain), Robin Uthappa, Abhinav Mukund, Sourabh Tiwary, Gurkirat Mann, Kedar Jadhav, Smit Patel (Wicketkeeper), Yusuf Pathan, Shahbaz Nadeem, Abhimanyu Mithun, Umesh Yadav, Suraj Yadav,

INDIA BLUE SQUAD FOR THE NKP SALVE CHALLENGER TROPHY

Yuvraj Singh (Captain), Akshath Reddy, Naman Ojha (Wicketkeeper), Mandeep Singh, Ankit Bawane, Abhishek Nayar, Manish Pandey, Piyush Chawla, Ankit Rajpoot, Vinay Kumar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Iresh Saxena.


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