Calcutta: Given the senior national selectors’ newly acquired fondness for unleashing jumbo surprises, nothing can be said with certainty. However, Harbhajan Singh is set to make a Test comeback too, while Irfan Pathan stands a reasonable chance.
There’s a big question mark over Virender Sehwag, a one-time stand-in India captain, though.
All three found a place in the World Twenty20 squad and, then, made comebacks in limited overs cricket.
With the selectors meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday to pick XV (a number confirmed by one of the selectors) for the first two Tests against Pakistan, the focus is now on the oldest form of international cricket.
While the first Test is in New Delhi from November 22, the next is in Calcutta (November 30 onwards). Bangalore hosts the final one, from December 8.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, Harbhajan will replace Ramesh Powar, who was in the XV during the last Test series (in England).
Harbhajan hasn’t played a Test since the one in Kingston, way back in June-July 2006.
Pathan, it appears, is in the frame for the berth which was occupied by Ranadeb Bose on the England tour.
Bose got just one wicket in Bengal’s Ranji opener, versus Hyderabad last week, a match in which Shib Shankar Paul claimed three — all in the first innings, with V.V.S. Laxman being one of his victims.
But, then, Bose hardly got opportunities in England…
If Sehwag, who was the highest run-getter (294, at an average of 73-plus) in the last Indo-Pak Test series, is to make the XV, then the axe surely has to fall on Gautam Gambhir.
Gambhir wasn’t given any role in the Test series in England, which we won 1-0, but has been impressive in the two shorter versions and dumping him is going to be unfair.
“This is a tough one, yes,” conceded another source.
Fair or not, if Dilip Vengsarkar and Co. could cite Sehwag’s “record” against Pakistan to justify his selection for the ongoing ODIs, the same argument may be put forward for Test cricket.
Wednesday’s meeting, by the way, will be the first attended by India’s newest Test captain, Anil Kumble.
Kumble’s appointment is only for the Tests versus Pakistan, but everything points to his being retained for the Test series in Australia as well.
Informally, the selectors could convey that to him some hours from now.
The ODI and Twenty20 captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, is going to be Kumble’s deputy.
(Assuming it’s XV-strong)
Openers: Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik. Middle-order: Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S.Laxman, Yuvraj Singh. Wicketkeeper: Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Spinners: Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh. Medium-pacers: Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Sreesanth.
ONE OF THE TWO
Gautam Gambhir (seems better placed), Virender Sehwag.
Somebody like Shib Shankar Paul.