In February, when India announced their squad for the Asia Cup and World Twenty20, there were quite a few surprises. While old warhorses Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh returned, uncapped all-rounder Pawan Negi was also picked.
Six matches later, Negi and Harbhajan are yet to get a game.
Negi, who grabbed the headlines after his selection, cashed in immediately by bagging the highest bid for an Indian at the Indian Premier League auctions. The Delhi Daredevils paid an astounding Rs 8.5 crore for the 23-year-old. His brush with fame though has done little to expedite his entry into the XI.
MS Dhoni has refrained from using him, instead banking on the in-form Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and part-time spinners Yuvraj and Suresh Raina.
Harbhajan has been a different story. The former spin spearhead has stayed on the bench for the last nine T20Is. The 35-year-old off-spinner is unlikely to get a game in the World T20 unless Ashwin is injured. Same is the case for Negi, who bowls left-arm spin. He is likely to be brought in only if Jadeja loses form or suffers an injury.
Ajinkya Rahane is the only batsman to be given a prolonged run, when Virat Kohli was rested for the Sri Lanka series. Bhuvneshwar Kumar might also be required if Mohammed Shami does not recover in time for the World T20.
The chance to prove their worth came when India hosted Sri Lanka last month. However, the team’s loss in the opening game left the series in jeopardy and the team management opted to retain the preferred eleven for the remaining games.
With the stakes higher in the Asia Cup, the same formula was followed. With India qualifying for the final, and UAE their next opponent, opportunity beckons again.
Following the win against Sri Lanka, Dhoni proclaimed that the team management would look to make “as many changes as possible” on Thursday against UAE.
Dhoni added that it would be difficult to include all the players on the bench for the game. “We still want to maintain the strength. Not sure if everyone sitting out will get a chance but there will be changes,” he said.
After the clash against UAE, India play the final and two warm-up ties against West Indies and South Africa before the first match of the WT20 against New Zealand on March 15.
Thus, the UAE clash could be the last chance for the reserves to show their utility.