Gautam Gambhir will be the main topic of discussion when national selectors sit down on Monday to pick the squads for next month’s tour of South Africa.
While the ODI team may see the under-performing Yuvraj Singh (63 in six innings, including 28 on Sunday) going out, the Test team may see fellow left-hander get a look-in. Although the Tests begin on December 18, well after the ODIs which start on December 5, the selectors are likely to pick the squad early.
Gambhir, who has by virtue of his 153 runs on a testing Roshanara Club track against Haryana bounced back into contention, could be picked as the third opener. He is also expected to play the next Ranji match against Orissa from December 6.
Gambhir’s experience – he has played Test cricket in South Africa – apart from the runs in recent domestic games (372 @ 74.40 in Ranji and 134 @ 67 against West Indies A) – have brought him back into reckoning. While Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay were the openers in the home Tests against West Indies, the team is likely to take a third opener as India will travel with 16 players for overseas Tests, one more than at home.
It is learnt that Ravindra Jadeja, who sat out the West Indies Tests due to shoulder strain, will return while Suresh Raina is also in with a chance. Though he hasn’t had a consistent run of scores, he struck a fighting century in the first round of Ranji games.
The bowling line-up is a bit unclear. The selectors may axe one of the three spinners, most probably Amit Mishra, as Jadeja, who may get inducted as an all-rounder, gives an extra spin option.
Pace will be the key area on South African pitches; it remains to be seen whether the selectors retain the current quartet of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma and add a left-arm seamer for variety.
In that case, Zaheer Khan or Jaydev Unadkat is likely come into contention. Unadkat, who played his only Test in South Africa on the 2010-11 tour, travelled there with the ‘A’ team this year for exposure.
Although Zaheer has been amongst wickets in first class games since his recent comeback, his absence from the BCCI’s list of contracted players suggests the selectors may be ready to look beyond him.
Ishant, axed for the West Indies ODIs, was in the Test squad.