India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is likely to given a much-needed break by the national selectors for the five-match ODI series against West Indies starting in Cuttack on Tuesday.
The selectors will finalise the squad for the first "two or three" ODIs on Friday. They are likely to name opener Gautam Gambhir as the captain. When Dhoni was rested last year, Gambhir led India to a 5-0 whitewash in the ODI series against New Zealand.
As a result, Parthiv Patel, who impressed during the ODI series in England, is expected to be the glovesman in the side.
There is uncertainty over Sachin Tendulkar's availability for the ODIs. If Tendulkar, who hasn't featured in an ODI since the World Cup final on April 2, reaches the 100-century milestone on Friday, he is all but certain to opt out. If Dhoni and Tendulkar are rested, then they will join the likes of VVS Laxman and leave for Australia earlier than the team's scheduled departure on December 12.
As HT reported on Thursday, a group of seniors is expected to reach Australia a few days in advance for preparation. Gambhir endorsed the idea mooted by the BCCI. "The better you are prepared, the better you do on tours. It was seen in South Africa. Some of the guys went early and prepared well and we had a great Test series in SA," Gambhir said on Thursday. "It's always good if players can go early and get acclimatised to the conditions. If the Board decides some players need to go early, it will be good for us."
Rahul Dravid has resembled vintage wine this year, going from strength to strength in the twilight of a magnificent career.
During his stylish knock of 82 on on Thursday, Dravid became only the second man in the game to cross 13,000 Test runs. Only Tendulkar is ahead. In less than an hour, Dravid raised his bat thrice — first for crossing Mount 13k, then after becoming the first batsman to complete 1,000 runs this year, and moments later when he recorded his 62nd fifty.
But the most memorable moment of the day came off the last ball before tea when Dravid dead-batted a Devendra Bishoo leg-spinner. After hitting the bat, the ball hopped towards the stumps and Dravid displayed his football skills by the kicking it ball away with his right-foot. And the first man to compliment him was Windies skipper Sammy. "Normally for warm-up, our team and theirs play football. Our team plays bowlers versus batsmen. In cricket, bowlers just can't score. So when Dravid kicked that out, I said to (Carlton) Baugh 'if Dravid and Kirk (Edwards) are in the goal, then we just cannot score'. He kept it out like a goalie," Sammy said.