How does one solve a problem like Yuvraj Singh? In a line-up filled with untouchable greats, the first difficulty lay in getting him in the XI. Now in, and having driven Pakistan to distraction, having pulled India out of a hole, Yuvraj has caused another problem --- who stays in the XI when Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni come back?
That question will be foremost in the selectors’ minds on Wednesday, when they pick up the team for the tour of Australia.It’s been done before, but after a ton like the one Yuvraj smashed on Saturday, he just can’t be dropped from the XI.One man who can be is Dinesh Karthik, after his indifferent form over this series. With scores of 9, 1, 1, 28 and 24, Karthik is clearly the marked man. And this could impact the selection of the squad to Australia and alter India’s opening combine.
Rahul Dravid, thus, seems to be the logical choice to walk out to open with Wasim Jaffer in the first Test against Australia, which starts at Melbourne a day after Christmas.
There have been suggestions that since Sachin Tendulkar has faced the new ball in 288 one-dayers, he should be asked to open. Dravid and Tendulkar, actually, are the batsmen best equipped to deal with the new ball in Australia. But Tendulkar is settled at No. 4 and is unlikely to be even asked to consider moving up.
Dravid has opened in the past, though he would not be too keen to do so now; his record as opener, 369 runs from 13 innings at 33.54, is way below his overall record.
There are 10 men certain to be on the plane to Australia — Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan. RP Singh, actually, can be added to the list.
His first five-for on Tuesday, in his second Test, should usher Ishant Sharma in; Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel should take the pace attack to a figure of five.
Gautam Gambhir, summoned to Bangalore a day before the match due Tendulkar’s knee injury, opened and failed in both innings. Twice his patience and technique were tested, and twice he did not pass the scrutiny. He played a total of 36 balls for his eight runs --- the test will only be tougher in Australia, much tougher.
But it won’t be fair to discard your third-choice opener after just two innings.
Dinesh Karthik, who came in at No. 6 and kept wickets, could actually be in lesser danger. He potentially still has an innings to play in the match; if he gets a chance, he must make the most of it.
Karthik’s importance to India cannot be overemphasised — even when he’s not in the XI. With him in the tour party, even not as first-choice opener, India have in him the reserve ‘keeper and opener.
But if the selectors opt to omit Karthik, Parthiv Patel, who has been in dazzling form over the last few months, could get a chance. Patel’s scores over the change of the seasons have been sensational, surely enough for an India recall.
Then there is Aakash Chopra, who’s been in fine form at home — playing his fifth Ranji Trophy game, he already has two tons, including a double against Himachal Pradesh. He has the right temperament, but according to most experts, his tendency to allow the bowlers to dictate terms to him could work against him.
Others in with a chance are pacemen Ajit Agarkar, Ranadeb Bose and Pankaj Singh.