A sore shoulder has ended Gautam Gambhir's hopes of touring Australia for the Test series — and brought in his Delhi teammate, Virender Sehwag. Pankaj Singh is the only new name to be called for India duty, rewarded for his work for Rajasthan in the previous seasons and India A this year.
As he announced the team for the Tests against Australia, Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, caused a stir with the 14th name — Sehwag had made it, after all. Sehwag has not played a Test since the defeat at Cape Town early this year, the game in which Dinesh Karthik opened for the first time for India. Sehwag's form has not been impressive this season — 66 runs from 3 Ranji Trophy matches.
And he was not in the list of 24 probables for Australia, announced just a week ago. Thus, when Gambhir dropped out with a sore shoulder, Aakash Chopra, the fourth opener in the list of 24 probables, would have expected to be drafted in. And he has all the right numbers — with 814 runs this first-class season (average 74, and with double centuries against South Africa A and Himachal Pradesh), he tops the run charts for Indian batsmen.
Sehwag probably got in because of the manner he plays the game. He has the strokes that can succeed on Australian wickets. His off-side game off the back foot is extremely strong, and he can regain — or lose — his form with one innings.
Chopra is more correct and technically sound, but is often dismissed as just a "blocker" who can allow bowlers to get on top. The list of 24 may not have been sacrosanct — few things in Indian cricket are — but what sort of message does it send to Chopra? Why include him among the probables if his runs were not going to count?
Gambhir, Shah said, needs to rest for three weeks to be fit again. That means that he is likely to be back with the Indian team for the one-day tri-series against Australia and Sri Lanka.
Among the bowlers, Shah said Munaf Patel "requires more match practice". "He'll be seen by the selectors at the Ranji Trophy before he can be picked up to play for India," he said. No questions were taken by Shah after his monologue that lasted less that 120 seconds.