Shastri backs Dhawan to deliver


Calcutta: Less than 15 hours after Ravi Shastri told The Telegraph that Shikhar Dhawan “deserves” a look-in, the national selectors named him in the 15 for the first two Tests against Australia.

Despite his experience, Gautam Gambhir was shown the door, made to pay for an indifferent run this season. The opener hasn’t scored a Test hundred for over three years!

Gambhir, however, has vowed to regain his place and tweeted that he doesn’t need “sympathy.” Also, that he wants India to win “@ all costs.”

On the face of it, then, Gambhir has taken his exclusion sportingly.

Virender Sehwag survived, but there’s a message for him in the dropping of Gambhir. He’ll have to deliver.

In some ways, Sehwag is on trial.

“I’m very happy for Dhawan... As I’d said last night, he deserved a chance and the selectors have rewarded someone who is a fairly consistent performer in domestic cricket and scores in every format,” was Shastri’s first reaction, on Sunday evening.

Shastri, a former India captain and cricket manager, continued: “Dhawan is a left-hander and the top-order needs variety... Left-handers are useful in breaking the bowlers’ rhythm... I’m aware that Murali Vijay has been getting runs, but it will be a good idea to open with Viru (Virender Sehwag) and Dhawan.”

The first Test, though, is at the Chepauk, Vijay’s home ground...

Shastri welcomed Harbhajan Singh’s recall. “Bhajji is an in-the-face cricketer with a tremendous record versus Australia... He bowled well in the Irani Cup and has got wickets in other matches at the domestic level, too.”

Harbhajan’s Australia-specific Test tally, indeed, is outstanding: 90 wickets, with as many as 81 coming at home.

Shastri was of the view that if the Chepauk would “definitely turn,” then India could field both Harbhajan and Ravichandran Ashwin in the 11.

Both are off-spinners.

“If the wicket is such, then India could field five bowlers, with Ravindra Jadeja the third spinner, and get the captain to bat at No.6... Of course, I’m not privy to what the team management is thinking.”

Shastri also expressed delight at Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s call-up. “I’d pitched for him just the other day... Kumar is another deserving candidate who has been rewarded... He should be played straightaway, partnering Ishant (Sharma).”

According to Shastri, the way the selectors have gone about their job “only reinforced” his contention that India start the four-Test series as “clear favourites.”

The last series, in Australia, had seen India hammered in all four Tests. It ended just over a year ago.

Meanwhile, asked if he had a message for Gambhir, who’d been the vice-captain in the last world meet (the World T20), Shastri answered: “This is a time for Gautam to reflect... He’s got to work on the areas he needs to and come back with a clear head...

“Gautam still has a lot of cricket left in him... I’m glad that he’ll be playing in the India A-Australia game.”

Gambhir, 31, will be captaining the home team in the three-day match, in Chennai.

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