Harbhajan, Kartik set for Test recall
In-form spin duo of Murali Kartik and Harbhajan Singh look all set to be named in the Indian test squad when it will be announced on Wednesday.Updated: Nov 13, 2007 15:39 IST
Spin bowlers Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik are set to regain their Test spots after a considerable gap when the national selectors pick the Indian squad for the first two ties of the best-of-three rubber against Pakistan here tomorrow.
Also set to be named in the squad, to be captained by veteran leg spinner Anil Kumble, are stylish middle order batsman V.V.S Laxman and Test openers Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik.
It remains to be seen whether Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan too get a recall to the longest form of the game.
Sehwag was ignored following his dismal show in the three-Test rubber against South Africa in which he aggregated just 53 runs in six innings.
Harbhajan, the 57-Test-old off-spinner with 238 wickets in his bag, last played in a Test eleven in April-May 2006.
The 26-year-old Punjab bowler was not in the team for the tours of Bangladesh and England earlier this year after failing to make it to the playing eleven against South Africa though he was part of the squad.
He has already recaptured his one-day slot and has shown very impressive form in the 50-over format at home in the last two series. Kartik's absence from the Test rankings has been even longer. The left arm spinner, who has played only eight Tests since his debut in 2000, last figured in the final 11 against South Africa at Kanpur in 2004-05. The Railways' slow bowler's improved performance in the one-day format since his recall out of the blue against Australia in the previous home series merits a comeback, especially in home conditions. However, he may not make the playing eleven in the presence of Kumble and Harbhajan.
Test specialist Laxman and former captain Rahul Dravid, no longer figuring in the ODI squad, would lend meat to the packed middle order which has Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly besides wicket keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in it to give it a very experienced and solid look. Left-handed Yuvraj, who is in prime form in the shortened format of the game, may have to wait for his chances to get into the playing eleven with so many other stalwarts ready to occupy the middle order slots. But his presence would obviously put extra pressure on Laxman and Ganguly to perform.
The dark horse seems to be Sehwag with his great Test record, mainly as an opener, against all comers and especially Pakistan. Sehwag has not exactly fired since his recall to the ODI squad in place of Dravid, but the selectors might be tempted to include him because of his potential to destroy attacks.
Sehwag, who is averaging 50-plus in 47 out of 52 Tests as opener and has scored all his three 200-plus knocks while launching the innings, could get a look-in only if the selectors choose to strengthen the already bulging middle order. For the opening slot there are three in contention who are expected to be picked in the team, first-choice openers Jaffer and Dinesh Kaarthick and reserve Gautam Gambhir who has been in very good nick in the T20 and 50-over games.
Three others who figured in the squad to England - medium pacers Ishant Sharma and Ranadeb Bose and off spinner Ramesh Powar - are already out of the selectors' radar. Powar is set to give way to Harbhajan while one of the two medium pacers is likely to be replaced by Murali Kartik.
The selectors have the option to give a chance again to Irfan Pathan, who too has done well since his re-induction into the one-day squad, to shore up the pace attack expected to include Zaheer Khan, R P Singh and S Sreesanth. The Baroda youngster has not figured in Test cricket since he was recalled home midway through the series in South Africa after showing indifferent form. Pathan was not considered to be good enough to be included in the playing XI in any of the Tests against the Proteas and had last played a Test in the West Indies.
The strong Indian bench which consists of players like Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary and S Badrinath may have to wait for their turns with the plethora of batting riches the team possesses in the middle order.
First Published: Nov 13, 2007 15:26 IST