No Sourav, No Gambhir, No Zaheer, No Agarkar

Team: Wasim Jaffer (Mumbai), Virender Sehwag (Delhi), Rahul Dravid (capt - Karnataka) Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai), VVS Laxman (Hyderabad), Mohammad Kaif (UP), Suresh Raina (UP), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk - Jharkand), Irfan Pathan (Baroda), Piyush Chawla (UP), Harbhajan Singh (Punjab), Anil Kumble (Karnataka), Sreesanth (Kerala), Rudra Pratap Singh (UP), VRV Singh (Punjab)

Good day for UP cricket - Four of their favourite sons have made it into the Indian test team.

Openers: Sehwag, Jaffer
If Gambhir hadn't played those ODI games in Pakistan, he would probably be still in the team. It would have been interesting if Jaffer had played for CCI in the opening tour game against England and failed in both the innings. Would the selectors still have selected him? Jaffer opted out of that game due to personal reasons (guess "real") and with the team management deciding to have a regular opener to partner Sehwag in the Nagpur test, his selection is a pretty straight-forward pick. In today's game at Baroda, he looked in much better control than Gambhir in their opening stand and looked set for a ton before getting his leg caught infront off the last delivery of the day. Personally, I think the selectors got this one dead right - Jaffer is the best in-form opener in the country and he really deserves a comeback. Not much to say about the selection of his opening partner. Sehwag is fit and so he plays. Sehwag loves scoring big in the first innings of the first test of any series and hopefully the Nagpur test wouldn't be any different.

Middle Order:
Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kaif, Raina
Irrespective of the merits and demerits of dropping Sourav, I just think it is a very bold decision (some might call it misplaced bravado). It is the selectors way of saying - "We don't need you anymore. You have served your country well and we thank you for that. Good luck for the Deodhar Trophy game against South Zone on the 25th". With Yuvraj not in contention for the Nagpur test, Sourav would have fancied his chances of making it to the first test XI. I don't think he expected to be dropped this time. He did reasonably well in the limited chances he got in Pakistan, but the selectors probably think that any youngster in his place would have been able to dish out those 30s in the final test. May be the selectors wanted to avoid a scenario where Ganguly hits a century in the first test - Yuvi comes back into the team for the second test - forcing Jaffer to be dropped and Dravid to be the opener again. Whatever be the thinking behind the decision, I know it is going to be really hard for Sourav's fans to digest this and Kolkata is bound to erupt in flames again. But it would be great if Sourav would take this into his stride and concentrates on the domestic games for a little while. I still think he has some cricket left (especially in the ODI variety) and he should seriously get back to doing what he does best instead of sulking and letting all and sundry know what a grave injustice this has been to him. His non-inclusion means that either Kaif or Raina would get to play in the Nagpur test (unless they decide to go in with 5 bowlers). Kaif would probably be the one to be selected, but I would love to see Raina get tested. Chappell loves to have a core set of players who can play both the tests and ODI (the larger the core, the better the team) and Raina seems to fit into that core. When he first came on the international scene, he looked like a good ODI player. But he hasn't done really badly in the longer variety this Ranji season - 620 runs in 6 games at an average of 68.88. (Jadeja, Muzumdar and Badrinath did better than him in terms of aggregate - but the first two are past their prime years and Badri will probably get his chances later).

Wicket-keeper:
Dhoni
No-brainer. It would be a great sin doubting his inclusion.

Seamers:
Pathan, Sreesanth, RP Singh, VRV Singh
That is a very very young pace attack (Sreesanth at 23 is the oldest). Given the performances of Agarkar and Zaheer in the Pakistan series, the changes don't really come as a surprise. Irfan is now undoubtedly the nation's pace spearhead and the kid has it in him to bear the burden and lead the attack. RP Singh did well (including a MOM performace) in the tests and his retention was expected. Sreesanth bowled with good pace and enthusiasm in the ODIs and the fact that he wasn't selected to play against England in Baroda today gave away the selectors intention. The fourth slot is interesting. Munaf Patel (with 34 wickets at 19.70 this season) and SS Paul (with 36 wickets at 25.38) were easily the pick of the bowlers today at Baroda against England, while VRV Singh (who missed quite a bit of the season owing to an injury) got tonked around by Kevin Pieterson. But VRV seems to have done enough last year to be in the selectors' good books. In a way, it is a good thing that the selectors are not basing their decisions on just one game (one innings), but rather looking at the potential and commitment of the individual. In all likelihood, VRV would be warming the benches in the test series, but sharing the dressing room should be a good enough experience for the youngster for now.

Spinners: Bhajji, Kumble, Piyush
Picking Chawla now is easily the best selection that the selection committee has made in a very long time. Piyush Chawla, the kid from Aligarh Moradabad (Thanks Alok for pointing it out) is ready for the big league - no doubts there. What if he is just 17? The best people to guide him towards a bright future are in that Indian dressing room and that is where he should be. He would definitely learn a lot more and a lot faster being with the Indian team than playing the Deodhar Trophy. (Maninder, Siva and Hirwani lost their way after making their debut at a very young age - I know that, but that doesn't really mean everyone who debuted at that age would turn up that way. There is a huge difference between the support staff then and the support staff now). I'm very excited about his inclusion and it would be really interesting to see if India would go in with three spinners into the Nagpur test.

Selectors, take a bow - that is one job done really well..

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Blogger Suds 1:19 PM

Hey man. This is one of the best blog entries in long time on cricket. Keep it coming. I like the way u have analized the selection. Enjoy...    



Blogger Alok 1:47 PM

sir, piyush chawla is from muradabad not aligarh as u mentioned.
anyways, amazing blog n keep writing.    



Blogger Krishna 2:06 PM

Very nice analysis. Agree with every word you say. Inclusion of Raina was good one. As Chappell suggested, he could become one of the game's greats. Inclusion of Kaif is also good too. It is touch and go really between them. In any case, their position in the XI is temporary as of now. But it is important to keep in the team...in a few years we will need them.

Very nice blog...    



Blogger vishnupavan 2:22 PM

alok, thanks for pointing that out - I was going with Piyush's birthplace (Aligarh).. guess I should have mentioned Moradabad instead, 'll correct it.

suds, krisha - thanks for the flattering words..    



Blogger GREATBONG 2:32 PM

I know it is going to be really hard for Sourav's fans to digest this and Kolkata is bound to erupt in flames again


Absolutely right. Damn those regionalistic Bengalis who only rejoice when their own state people play----its good to see that you dont. And in passing, great news that 4 UP players are playing.    



Blogger Anirudh Karnick 2:17 AM

Like suds said, it is one of the few interesting (and long) posts on cricket in the blogosphere recently.    



Blogger Pratik 12:10 AM

There is no way India will play three spinners. Bhajji and Kumble are it. The best Chawla can hope for is to soak up the atmosphere, learn from his senior team mates, and find out how he can improve his cricket (not just bowling).    



Blogger Anirudh Karnick 1:54 AM

India probably won't play three spinners. But I think Chawla might still play. Maybe they'll make Bhajji sit one out.    



Blogger vishnupavan 7:00 AM

Knowing the surprises that the team management has been throwing in recent times, you can't really rule anything out.. Piyush might get a game as early as in the first test..    



Blogger Pratik 7:53 PM

Not happening, Vishnu. If they do play him, one of the other two spinners will be dropped. What is more likely is that he might get a chance in an ODI sometime soon.    



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