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Rohit Sharma in focus ahead of New Zealand series team selection

cricket Updated: Sep 12, 2016 09:59 IST
Kushal Phatarpekar
Kushal Phatarpekar
Hindustan Times
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India's Rohit Sharma watches after hitting a six during the second Twenty20 international against West Indies.(AP Photo)

When the national selectors meet on Monday to pick the squad for the upcoming three-Test series against New Zealand, a number of sticky issues are likely to come up for discussion, the most important being the fate of an under-performing Rohit Sharma.

In what is set to be chairman Sandeep Patil’s last meet in charge, the panel is also expected to provide direction for the side which will play as many as 13 Tests at home this season.

The team management decided to observe a number of India players in the ongoing Duleep Trophy. Rohit was out for 30 in the first innings of India Blue.

While he is a star in the limited-overs format, the 29-year-old’s form in Tests has been dodgy and hurt his chances of cementing a place in the middle-order, having made his debut against West Indies in November 2013 with two centuries.

In the recent tour of the West Indies, Rohit made just 9 and 41 in the two innings he got, not cashing in on the backing by captain Virat Kohli, who even vacated his No 4 spot for him and batted one-drop.

The management’s decision to ask him to play in the Duleep Trophy final only underlines the concern of the selectors.

There has been criticism of the Indian management’s decision to persist with Rohit in Tests. With many young players waiting in the wings, the Mumbai batsman will have his fingers crossed.

At the top of the order, the selectors might look to revert to their original choices with Cheteshwar Pujara back at No 3.

India Blue batsman Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates his double century against India Red. (Virendra Singh Gosain/HT PHOTO)

Pujara played in the first two Tests in the West Indies, but was far from fluent, scoring 16 in the first Test in Antigua which India won. He was then run out for 46 in the drawn second Test in Kingston and was replaced by Rohit in the third Test in St Lucia.

However, the Saurashtra batsman has rediscovered his form with back-to-back three figure scores for India Blue, 166 in the previous game followed by 256 not out on Sunday in the Duleep Trophy final against India Red.

Pujara’s strong show could make life difficult for Shikhar Dhawan, who also struggled in the Caribbean. In the last seven games, Dhawan has managed just 288 runs at just over 28.

He was dropped for the final Test against West Indies, which was washed out. With KL Rahul’s strong show in the West Indies, he may have to be resigned to playing a backup role against New Zealand.

Selectors are also likely to take a look at Ravindra Jadeja. The all-rounder has been in great nick but was sidelined due to the five-bowler strategry Kohli employed in the West Indies.

Jadeja played just one Test in the West Indies, scoring 22 runs and taking three wickets. Like Dhawan, he has also been asked to play in the Duleep final.

With the spinners expected to play a prominent role in the long home season, the selectors might be tempted to persist with Jadeja. Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav has impressed in the Duleep Trophy, scalping 13 wickets in two games for India Red while leg-spinner Amit Mishra bowled well in the West Indies and is likely to partner R Ashwin.

The first Test in Kanpur starts on September 22.