As the selectors sit down on Thursday to pick the squad for the Test series against South Africa, beginning on February 6 in Nagpur, they will have to keep an eye on India’s long list of injuries.
Sreesanth, who tore his left hamstring, is out for sometime and his absence could open a window of opportunity for Karnataka’s new-ball bowler Abhimanyu Mithun, who finished as the highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy.
As for others on the injury list, Yuvraj Singh, according to Gary Kirsten, would miss at least the first Test with a torn cartilage in his left wrist.
Team sources said Rahul Dravid’s status would be clearer once India reach home. On Wednesday, Dravid was in hospital here with a broken left cheekbone. The doctors have ruled out head injury, which raises hopes of him recovering before the first Test against South Africa.
V.V.S. Laxman, who had 10 stitches in his left thumb, showed quick recovery before leaving for India and skipper MS Dhoni hopes he would be fit for Nagpur.
With India trying to defend their No 1 spot in Tests, picking the strongest and fittest possible team would be high on the selectors’ agenda and one of them said the panel would prefer to go for players in form. That could be good news for Karnataka’s Manish Pandey and Abhimanyu Mithun.
Mithun, 20, should be talked about by the selectors, having picked up 47 wickets in the Ranji Trophy in nine matches. The selectors HT spoke to though didn’t comment on whether Mithun or the tested R.P. Singh, Praveen Kumar and Munaf Patel would be preferred. Praveen, though, strengthened his claim with a five-wicket haul against South Zone in the Duleep Trophy semi-final on Wednesday.
Pandey has emerged highest scorer in the Ranji Trophy with four hundreds and four fifties. He is just 20 and the selectors could be reluctant in picking him. That makes Saurashtra’s Cheteshwar Pujara and Delhi’s Virat Kohli frontrunners for one slot in the middle order. But if the middle order has more vacancy, a more experienced S. Badrinath could emerge second choice.
Pujara has been performing for sometime at the domestic level and was a good candidate to tour Bangladesh. But with the seniors available, he had to stay home.
Coming at No.3, Kohli has been enjoying a purple patch in the one-dayers. And except for the occasional weakness in tackling the short ball, he has looked comfortable even when batting under pressure.