With openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan back after their injury woes on the Sri Lanka Test tour, the India selectors will have a surfeit of batsmen to choose from when they name the squad for the first two Tests against South Africa along with the side for the last two One-day Internationals (ODIs) in New Delhi on Monday.
After India were forced to play different sets of openers in each of the three Tests in the 2-1 win in Sri Lanka, it will be a welcome headache as far as the batting department is concerned for chairman Sandeep Patil and his panel.
However, they are likely to spend a lot of time discussing the bowling. Ishant Sharma, who was the pace spearhead in Sri Lanka, is banned for the first Test (Mohali, November 5-9) and will have to get going before the second (Bangalore, November 14-18), having pulled up with a hamstring problem playing Ranji Trophy for Delhi. The physios at the National Cricket Academy, Bangalore, will assess Ishant’s injury on Monday.
With the spinners likely to play a decisive role in the four-Test series, Ravichandran Ashwin --- nursing a side strain at the moment --- Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra look certain to be picked. However, in the pace department, Mohammad Shami is yet to play a game after knee surgery, and hence it is likely to be Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who did not play a Test in Sri Lanka. All-rounder Stuart Binny didn’t do a bad job in Sri Lanka, but will be struggling to get in.
Wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha will return to the squad, having missed the last Test in Colombo because of a hamstring problem with Naman Ojha replacing him. Vijay (hamstring) played in the Ranji tie against Mumbai to indicate his fitness while Dhawan (hand fracture) has shown no discomfort in the ODIs.
The squad for the last two ODIs, in Chennai (October 22) and Mumbai (October 25), is unlikely to see any changes. If anything, Ashwin might be rested and Aaron selected ahead of Yadav, who has struggled to stem the run flow.