Even in the best of times, selection of the national cricket squad has a hint of intrigue. That is only heightened because the chief selector is not allowed by the cricket board chiefs to provide the logic behind his panel’s choices to the media, in contrast to how national cricket boards explain things. As a result, the only comments officially available from the chief selector, Sandeep Patil, are that the recalled Murali Vijay is the only standby opener and young Ajinkya Rahane will be the backup for the middle order.
Regardless of the committee’s silence, this home season is likely to prove significant on three counts. Skipper MS Dhoni, who escaped the axe despite the Test series routs in England and Australia, may not survive unless India redeem themselves at home in the next few months. And the overhaul of the batting line-up could well be complete by the time the Aussies leave India early next year, if India flounder. The good news before the four-Test series against England, which kicks off on November 15, is that Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag have scored first-class centuries after around two years. At 39, there can’t be too many assurances about Tendulkar’s future career, but he must leave on a high. For Sehwag, whose thrill-a-minute bash often makes it look like he hardly puts in an effort, this season will show whether he is in the mood to motor on or will come under fresh pressure to stay on. The same goes for his opening partner Gautam Gambhir.
On the face of it, there is nothing drastic about the squad for the first two Tests. But India’s performances will decide the direction the panel’s next meeting will take.