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ODI series may have solved Test problems

Today's washout and Yuvraj's problem with the willow may have solved India's selection dilemma, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: May 15, 2007 15:39 IST

The ODI series must have provided the much-needed relief to Rahul Dravid. Not only a comprehensive 2-0 victory was a tonic that the beleaguered skipper badly needed, but the performances of Dhoni, Karthik and Yuvraj, may have also solved some selection issues ahead of the Test Series.

It will be extremely difficult now not to play Karthik and Dhoni together, especially after their Houdini act in the first ODI! It will be equally difficult not to leave out Yuvraj after his two flops in the ODI series, which the rain brought to a hasty conclusion today.

With Karthik getting selected as opener and the big five - Dravid, Tendulkar, Sourav, Yuvraj and Laxman - laying claims to the middle order, there were speculations that Dhoni might get dropped with Karthik donning the dual role of a gloves man and the opener.

The second option was seeing Dravid stepping in as makeshift opener again, with Dhoni retaining his place as keeper and Karthik warming the bench.

But Yuvraj's inconsistency in ODIs — Bangladesh series yielding just 25 runs — and bad form in Test will mean barring injury, the batting list will have Jaffer and Karthik on top, followed by Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly and Dhoni, and four bowlers.

Patchy Yuvraj

The situation is certainly not rosy for the gifted Southpaw, but then Yuvraj has been going through a terrible lack of form for last one year. His last big knock in a Test Series had come ages ago - 122 in a losing cause at Karachi in February 2006. Over 15 months and 10 innings have gone by, and he has not had another decent test knock to his credit.

Yuvraj in Tests

Innings played

Runs

Avg

100s/50s

Till Pak series 2006

19

662

41.37

3/2

Average after Pak series

10

168

18.66

0/0

Probably one good knock in the two ODIs would have given selectors some food for thought, but the twin failures, coupled with his record over the last one year, may have put him out of favour.

If we take Yuvraj's whole Test career, and only completed innings, then in 13 out of 25 instances, he has not been able to reach a figure of 20! That is every alternate innings!

Yuvraj's 25 completed Test Innings

50+

4 Innings

41-49

2

31-39

2

21-29

4

11-20

6

0-9

7

This also ensures that VVS Laxman will certainly not be the fall guy. Especially with a century and three half centuries since that fateful Karachi match.

In fact, from his 15 innings (including two not outs) after that, VVS has scored 437 runs at an average of 34. Certainly not exceptional considering his career average of 42, but still much favourable compared to Yuvraj. Then he has had two tremendous back-to-back half centuries in the testing South African conditions, one of which, 73 at Johannesburg, had helped India take 1-0 lead in the three-test series.

In bowling, it is difficult to see India playing without Kumble and three pacers. Unless they chose to opt for five bowlers, Ramesh Powar is likely to be consigned to the bench.

But playing with five bowlers is really not the option right now, considering that will lead to another debate on who else to drop - a debate Indian think tank will love to avoid.