New Delhi: The third specialist spinner's slot will be the subject of much deliberation when the national selection committee, headed by Sandeep Patil, meets here tomorrow to announce the squad for the three-Test away series against Sri Lanka starting August 12.
Barring this one aspect, the five wise men on the selection panel would have very little to fret on while picking the squad for the longer format where at least 13 players will automatically select themselves. Apart from third spinner's position, it will also be interesting to find out whether it will be a 15 or 16-member squad for the three-match series.
The six specialist batsmen who are automatic choices are openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, skipper Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and A team captain Cheteshwar Pujara. Young KL Rahul, who missed out against Bangladesh due to dengue, is likely to come back as the seventh batsman. Wriddhiman Saha is another automatic selection as first-choice wicketkeeper while an additional 16th member might make provision for Naman Ojha or Sanju Samson as the second wicketkeeper.
The three pacers, who are likely to make the cut are Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Pacer Varun Aaron is also a certainty if he recovers from his bout of influenza.
While the two off-spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh are sure to retain their places, it is remains to be seen whether the selection committee opts for a left-arm spinner in Axar Patel or a veteran leg-spinner in Amit Mishra. With Karn Sharma sustaining a fracture before Zimbabwe series, it brings 32-year-old Haryana leggie Mishra into the picture.
Mishra has 43 wickets from 13 Test matches but he has last donned whites for India way back in 2011 against England at the Oval, in which he excelled as a batsman with scores of 43 and 84 while going wicketless for 170 runs in 38 overs. But his selection in the India A squad for longer format makes it clear that he is there in the mix.
Ravindra Jadeja is unlikely to be considered as he was dropped owing to poor form and with no matches in the interim and his non-selection in the India A team for two first-class matches is an indicator that he is not there in the scheme of things.
Axar, on his part, was impressive in his restrictive role with five wickets from 3 ODIs and 4 scalps from two T20 Internationals in the recently-concluded Zimbabwe series. The 28-year-old Pragyan Ojha has the wickets for India in Tests (113 from 24 matches) but he is yet to get into the groove after he remodelled himself following a ban due to suspect action.
Ojha's performance will be keenly watched by national selectors as an in-form Ojha is an asset on sub-continental wickets offering substantial turn. Another leg-spinner in the fray is Karnataka's Shreyash Gopal, who has had decent performances in the Ranji Trophy and is now in the current India A squad.
However selectors might just like to have a long hard look at Gopal at the 'A' level before throwing him at the deep end of the pool.