Virender Sehwag is in the reckoning for a comeback to the Test side when the selection committee meets in Delhi on Tuesday to pick the squads for the Test series against England, which will follow the one-dayers in Northern Ireland.
The committee will pick teams for the five one-dayers — one against Ireland, three against South Africa and one against Pakistan in Glasgow — and the three Tests against England.
According to a selector, India will name three openers, five pacemen, two spinners and a wicketkeeper for the Tests in a probable squad of 16, leaving five middle-order batsmen to round off the line-up.
How do the numbers add up? The easier part first. Wasim Jaffer would be the first specialist opener and Dinesh Karthik, pitchforked into the job, should be the second; he has proved that he can open, at least in the subcontinent. Ironically, Sehwag, who began in the middle before being converted into an opener, would battle for the third opener’s slot with fellow Delhiite Gautam Gambhir.
Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh won’t trouble chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar and his colleagues — if 16 go, they pick themselves, as does M.S. Dhoni. Ramesh Powar’s six wickets in Bangladesh, costing 19.66 apiece, may not prove enough — he could well make way for Harbhajan’s experience. Anil Kumble is a certainty as the first spinner.
Zaheer, Munaf and Sreesanth — all had injury scares recently — have been cleared by Indian physio John Gloster and pick themselves. RP Singh, with six wickets in the Bangla Tests, should be the fourth.
The fifth slot is open. Delhi’s Ishant Sharma looked good in the limited opportunity he got. However, the selectors just might be tempted to revisit Irfan Pathan, for the batting options he gives, though this would be a surprise. And then there’s always Ajit Agarkar, with VRV Singh being the dark horse.
The one-day squad of 15 should have Gambhir at the top with Sehwag (or Karthik) and possibly, see the return of Kaif. The big news, though, is the probable return of Tendulkar and Ganguly. According to a selector, the duo, ‘rested’ for the Bangladesh ODIs, will be “needed” against South Africa. ““Against Ireland in Ireland, it would be different but South Africa is very strong,” he said.
It would be interesting to see if the selectors leave Munaf out of the Ireland squad — they are not happy with several “niggles” he has had. For the Tests though, he is a certainty.