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Ashwin may get the nod

In their bid to draw a line under the 0-4 Test hammering in England and prepare for the Australian challenge, the selection panel is likely to blood off-spinner R Ashwin against the West Indies, writes Nikhilesh Bhattacharya. The possible 15

cricket Updated: Nov 04, 2011 17:14 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya

Cricketers need to stay in the present and MS Dhoni and his men will be focussing on the lone T20 International against England at Eden Gardens on Saturday. The Indian selectors, however, will have one eye on the tour of Australia later this year when they meet here on Friday to pick the squad for the first of three Tests against the West Indies starting November 6.

In their bid to draw a line under the 0-4 Test hammering in England in the summer and prepare for the Australian challenge, the five-man national selection panel is likely to blood off-spinner R Ashwin in the home series against the West Indies, drop middle-order batsman Suresh Raina and give Virat Kohli another chance to establish himself in the longest format.http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/281011/28_10_pg18a.jpg

Ashwin has been impressive in ODIs and is thought to be ready for bigger challenges. Even if the Tamil Nadu youngster is picked, established off-spinner Harbhajan Singh is expected to keep his place with the third spinner's berth going to left-armer Pragyan Ojha, who took nine wickets for the Rest of India in the Irani Cup tie.

Harbhajan's England tour was cut short by an abdominal strain and afterwards he was dropped from the limited-over team filled with youngsters that took on the same opponents at home. However, since then he has led from the front with wickets and occasional runs as Mumbai Indians won the Champions League T20 title, the India Green one-day team emerged joint winners in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy. Harbhajan also played two T20s for Punjab in the zonal league of the national T20 championship.

There is likely to be less debate about the batting line-up. Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman pick themselves, provided those injured get the necessary fitness certificates. Sehwag, recuperating from shoulder surgery, has batted and bowled for Delhi in domestic T20 matches. Tendulkar has started batting in nets after recovering from a broken left big toe.

Kohli is another youngster who has performed in the ODIs and may come in at No. 6 to try and make up for his failures in the West Indies in mid-2011 when he made his Test debut. Yuvraj Singh, back on the field for Punjab after breaking a finger in the second Test in England, is likely to be the reserve batsman, ahead of Raina whose Test failures in England outweigh the ODI runs he has recently scored at home.

The names of reserve opener Abhinav Mukund, who showed good temperament though not enough runs in the West Indies and England, and Ajinkya Rahane, a revelation in the ODIs, could also be discussed. With Zaheer Khan still recovering from ankle surgery, Praveen Kumar is likely to lead the pace attack with Ishant Sharma (who played for Delhi in the zonal T20s), Sreesanth (who has not played since the England tour) and Umesh Yadav following.