Yuvraj and Harbhajan back, Murali is the only surprise

Calcutta: The national selectors have indeed looked beyond Suresh Raina, but instead of Manoj Tiwary, they've settled on Ajinkya Rahane as the (reserve) middle-order batsman.

Rahane is in the India XV for the first two Tests against England, in Ahmedabad and in Mumbai, respectively. He's uncapped at the highest level.

The 24-year-old was in the squad for the two Tests versus New Zealand, in August-September, but as the reserve opener.

Rahane has opened for India in ODIs and T20 Internationals. But at the first-class level, he's been batting at No.3. The Mumbaikar did so even for India A against England last week.

It's not the first time that Tiwary has lost out, but this probably was his best chance. The next may not come in a hurry. So, the next few weeks, possibly months too, are bound to test his mental toughness.

Publicly, at least, Tiwary has taken it rather well. "I've just got to keep my patience... I'm a firm believer that the day is not far away when things will fall in place..."

Starting from scratch is, however, never easy.

Merely being in the Test squad would have done Tiwary a world of good, but the new committee, headed by Sandeep Patil, has gone along with the previous one's thinking.

Turning out for India A, Tiwary did well to score 93 versus England, but he didn't set the Hooghly on fire in the Ranji opener against holders Rajasthan. Rahane made it easier for Patil and Co. by scoring a hundred versus Railways.

Rahane failed in the first innings against England, but did get 54 in India A's second outing.

While Yuvraj Singh was expected to make the squad and Harbhajan Singh stood a reasonable chance, Murali Vijay has been recalled out of the blue.

Vijay had been a big failure (an average of 12.00) in his last Test series, in the West Indies in June-July 2011, but captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni rates him very highly. Plus, he'd scored a double for Rest of India versus Rajasthan some six weeks ago.

Both Dhoni and Vijay turn out for the Chennai Super Kings and, so, the captain knows him from really close quarters.

With Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir retained, Vijay will sit in the dressing room, unless one of the two seniors gets injured.

Sehwag got a hundred on Monday, for Delhi, but Vijay's presence would put him and Gambhir on their toes.

Like Harbhajan, Sehwag is two short of a century of Tests. Barring the unexpected, the opener should get to the milestone in Mumbai, while Harbhajan's getting there depends on how the XI is structured.

Typically, Harbhajan took a swipe at critics after his selection. He must save his energy for the field, though.

Of the three comeback men, Vijay's last Test was 16 months ago. It's 15 months for Harbhajan and 12 months for Yuvraj.

Each have reason to rejoice, but none more so than Yuvraj. He's already made a T20 return, now he's days away from again turning out in the India whites.

His has been an incredible script.

Cheteshwar Pujara has quickly capitalised on Rahul Dravid's retirement; Yuvraj has the chance to make permanent (to the extent possible) the slot occupied till recently by V.V.S. Laxman.

Strangely, the Board's media release didn't mention that Dhoni's been retained captain for the entire (four-Test) series, but a well-placed source of The Telegraph said he'd be there for "all the matches."

Apparently, there was no discussion, with everybody "assuming" that Dhoni will be in the hot seat right through!

Usually, a vice-captain isn't named for a home series and that has been strictly followed.

Dhoni, known to strongly pitch for Raina, was present during the selection committee meeting in Mumbai. Coach Duncan Fletcher's views were ascertained "over the phone." He's on vacation.

Well earned? You decide.


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