Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Race Begins...

Rest of India: Virender Sehwag (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, Manoj Tiwary, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, Pragyan Ojha, Ishwar Pandey, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ambati Rayudu, Shami Ahmed, Jalaj Saxena

Board President's XI: Abhinav Mukund (capt), Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu, Mandeep Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Parthiv Patel, Stuart Binny, Sarabjit Ladda, Parvez Rassol, Shami Ahmed, Parvinder Awana, Kamlesh Makwana.

India A: Shikhar Dhawan (capt), Jiwanjot Singh, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Ajinkya Rahane, C Gautam, Rakesh Dhruv, Jalaj Saxena, Manpreet Gony, Vinay Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ashok Menaria.

The above are the squads to play Irani Trophy and warm up matches against Australia. I’m just trying to figure what I can derive from these squads to arrive at the final squad to play against Australia.

For starters, the following names are missing. Dhoni, Gambir, Yuvraj Singh, Pujara, Kohli, Jadeja, Ashwin, Chawla, Mishra, B Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Irfan Pathan and Ishanth Sharma. Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan will be featuring Mumbai when they take on Rest of India. However, Zaheer Khan is already ruled unfit to play Irani Trophy. Out of all these names, let’s speculate who is in and who is out.  

We can be sure that selectors have decided to go past Yuvraj when they axed him in the middle of England series. Also his absence from all above squad confirms that he is out of fray as a Test Cricketer (may be for the rest of his career too). To some extent the same logic should hold good for Zaheer Khan too. And B Kumar arrival more or less sealed the fate of Zaheer Khan. Non selection of Chawla and Mishra means – either they are completely ignored or considered as surprise ammo to thwart Aussie batsman. I personally don’t favor either of them. Pujara does not have to play any of these matches to make a case, while Yadav and Irfan are nursing injuries. And then it is fair to assume Dhoni, Ashwin, Ishant Sharma and Kohli are rested for playing non-stop cricket (you know from when). I would like to include the name of Gambir too. However I’ve already been speculating that Gambir and Sehwag together may not feature in the same XI for India (the least in the near future). I also see India is experimenting different openers in each of the above squad which makes me feel “May be I’m right this time on Gambir Axe”. Again, you can never be sure about anything in Indian Cricket.

If we agree that Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dhoni, Kohli, Pujara, Ojha, Ashwin and B Kumar are sure to make the cut in the squad, then who could be the remaining 7?

Though Saxena and Pandey feature in Rest of India Squad, I’m not entirely sure if the duo will get an opportunity to play. Mithun should sit out with them to allow the remaining XI to take the field. Luckily Saxena is selected in India A where he can be sure of playing in the XI. Basically I’m running Pandey and Mithun out of the race for a place in the India Squad.

Interestingly, the name of Shami Ahmed features in all 3 teams. That makes it clear that the selectors want to have a good look of him (either to replace currently rested and popularly out of form Ishant Sharma or substitute for Yadav if the latter could not recover in time). Basically, Ishant Sharma’s place in squad will be decided by the performance of Shami Ahmed or by the non-availability of Umesh Yadav. Eventually 2 among the 3 will make the cut for 2 additional fast bowlers. I don’t even give Sreeshanth an outside chance. I personally back Umesh Yadav and Shami Ahmed to be two bowlers to join B Kumar.

The performance of Tiwary, Rohit Sharma, Raina and Rayudu will be closely watched for two middle order batsmen. One among the 2 selected will eventually fight for a spot in the XI in place of all-rounder Jadeja. I back Tiwary and Rohit Sharma here.

The selectors will field 2 more openers in the final squad. I think Vijay should partner Sehwag in the Irani Trophy, while Jiwanjot Singh should pair Rahane in India A. Though Dhawan is selected in both Rest of India and India A, I doubt he will walk in as opener in both games. But he is sure to play both games. So, who among Rahane, Jeevanjot Singh, Dhawan and Vijay will make the cut for two more spots in the squad as openers is desirable? Though I back Vijay and Rahane, I strongly feel Jiwanjoth Singh as the dark horse to upset Vijay or even Rahane.

The last place should go to an all-rounder. Saxena is no were in near vicinity to run the race with Jadeja. Pathan is unlikely to be favored in Indian Conditions (even if he recovers from injury on time). However Jadeja will be compelled to run the race as 2nd spinner with Ashwin and Ojha for a place in the final XI.

With respect to names in Board President’s XI, we can safely assume that these players are selected for motivational purposes only.

For starters, I give thumbs up to the following squad to represent India against Australia.

Sehwag, Rahane, Vijay, Pujara, Tendulkar, Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Dhoni, Jadeja, Ojha, Ashwin, B Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Shami Ahmed.

After the Irani Trophy and warm up matches against Australia, we will review to see if things changed.

Bottom line: The Race Begins…

Cricket Lover

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