As selectors sit down to decide the Indian team for Bangladesh tour, five players might be in contention for the opening slot in the Test side. Unless the selection committee wishes to try someone totally fresh, they will be looking towards Jaffer, Sehwag, Chopra, Gambhir and Uthappa to occupy two, possibly three opening positions in the test Squad.
Wasim Jaffer: Sure Selection
Rock-Solid Wasim Jaffer should be the sure shot bet for selection on pure form. The technical adjustments of the 29-year-old opener have paid handsomely of late, which is evident in his exceptional record since comeback. Jaffer was averaging just about 20 after his first seven tests when he was dropped for about four years. Since his recall against England in 2006, he has been averaging a staggering 43. His last ten tests have fetched India three centuries and three half-centuries.
Jaffer’s maturity is as much a reflection on his technique, as on his temperament an ability to hit back against all odds. He was one of the star performers in the two away series against the West Indies and South Africa. A much-improved player, who thrives in most adverse of conditions.
Virender Sehwag: In for tough times?
Despite some great past performances, two things can combine to oust Virender Sehwag. First, in the ill-fated South African series, Sehwag’s partnerships with Jaffer never really took off. The duo played five innings together while aggregating 59 runs for an average of just about 12. Nearly three times more runs were scored by the makeshift opener Dinesh Karthik along with Jaffer 153 in the first innings of final test.
Second, Sehwag, selected in the World Cup team at the ‘insistence of Dravid’, failed to repay by playing a winning knock either against Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. Out of form for too long, Sehwag’s adventurous shot selection, an offshoot of his trying too hard to succeed, could prove to be his undoing.
Aakash Chopra: Experience should help
Aakash Chopra’s Test career can be divided in two phases. First, when he sparkled with runs, and second, when he sparkled with partnerships. Chopra’s debut series against New Zealand was tremendous. He was consistency personified averaging close to 46 in the two tests against an attack which had names like Tuffy and Daniel Vettori.
Then, during the Australian tour, his form dipped a little but his tendency to stay at the wicket for long durations resulted in some productive opening partnerships with Sehwag, helping India to a draw a series which most expected us to lose badly. The duo were involved in two century and two half-century partnerships in eight innings, which must be a record of sorts for Indian openers against Australia in Australia. Even in Multan Test, his invaluable 42 and the first wicket partnership of 160 runs with Sehwag were the cornerstone of India’s first test win over Pakistan.
Thereafter, Chopra has been out of favour with Indian selectors and few bad innings have been enough to omit him from the team. For this proven performer against top quality attacks, including those of New Zealand and Australia, an outing against a weaker opposition can just about be the tonic he needs to re-start his test career. His experience in different English leagues, he has been playing there for three seasons, and Australia will be invaluable when India tour these two countries later in the year.
Aggressive Gambhir: Can he get back?
An average of 36 in 13 Tests may be respectable enough when one looks at Gautam Gambhir’s record. But it instantly comes down to 24 when one takes away the series against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
So if one is right now looking at just Bangladesh, then it could be the right opportunity to get him in after a series of low scores against Sri Lanka in December 2005, which led to him being dropped. But if one is also looking to preparing the team for the tours of England and Australia, may be, Gambhir will find it difficult to find favour with the selectors.
Gambhir has been scoring runs in tremendous fashion in the domestic circuit, but his aggression at international level has not paid dividends the way he would have liked. Gets too ambitious rather early an instinct he will need to curb to make the kind of impact that his talent warrants.
Uthappa: Raw, but talented
Robin Uthappa has shown promise, which he failed to translate into performance in the ongoing World Cup. Just 30 runs from three innings will have disappointed even the biggest of his fans.
Uthappa’s lack of Test experience could come in the way of taking him on the test tour, though in ODIs, he does deserve few more games for selectors to assess his true potential.
Selecting the Opening pair will be a tough job. But with England and Australian tours coming later in the year, time could not be better to make some tough choices on opening slot.