Going by the teams selected for three key matches next month, it’s clear that the national selectors’ immediate focus is on having a good look at the options available in the opening and off-spin departments.
India’s most successful opening batsman in recent times, Virender Sehwag, is leading the Rest of India side against Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium from February 6.
However, his long-time opening partner, Gautam Gambhir, is not in any of the three teams, including the Board President's XI and India A.
The left-hand opener has not been in the best of form, and if he was an automatic choice for the Australia series, then ideally he should have got a game to get into the groove.
Another strange omission is Yuvraj Singh. He was dropped midway through the Test series against England despite a good knock in the first Test win. That he doesn’t find his name in any of the three teams has put a question mark over his future in Tests.
In fact, all the three teams will be captained by openers. Shikhar Dhawan will captain the India A team and Abhinav Mukund will lead the Board President’s XI in the warm-up games against Australia to be played in Chennai.
Apart from Sehwag, Rest of India has two other openers, Murali Vijay and Dhawan. Jiwanjot Singh will partner Dhawan in the India A team, while Robin Uthappa will partner Mukund in the Board President's XI.
One of the reasons for India's debacle at home against Australia was the below par showing of off-spinner R Ashwin. It has brought Harbhajan Singh back in contention. On test in the three games will be three more offies — MP’s Jalajh Saxena; J&K’s Parvez Rassol and Saurashtra’s Kamlesh Makwana.
Rest of India: V Sehwag (capt), S Dhawan, M Vijay, M Tiwary, S Raina, W Saha, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, P Ojha, I Pandey, A Mithun, A Rayudu, S Ahmed, J Saxena.
Board President's XI: A Mukund (capt), R Uthappa, A Rayudu, Mandeep Singh, K Jadhav, P Patel, S Binny, S Ladda, P Rassol, S Ahmed, P Awana, K Makwana.
India A: S Dhawan (capt), Jiwanjot Singh, Rohit Sharma, M Tiwary, A Rahane, C Gautam, R Dhruv, J Saxena, M Gony, V Kumar, D Kulkarni, A Menaria.