There won’t be too many surprises when selectors, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath, Narendra Hirwani, Surendra Bhave and Raja Venkat meet in Mumbai today to pick the 15-man squad for five ODIs and the lone T20 International in Sri Lanka later this month. Two to three changes are expected from the squad that played in Asia Cup at Bangladesh in March this year.
India’s Ajinkya Rahane plays a delightful shot against England at Old Trafford on August 31, 2011. Pic/Getty Images
It is almost certain that Mumbai batsman Ajinkya Rahane will be the third opener after Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Rahane is likely to be rewarded for his tremendous form in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League though he hasn’t done much in the West Indies, where he is currently touring with the India ‘A’ team.
“But Rahane has been doing consistently well in all forms of the game recently and it’s high time he gets a look-in,” a BCCI source told MiD DAY yesterday.
Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni pick themselves in the middle order. But the million-dollar question is whether Sachin Tendulkar — who is believed to be in Europe— will tour Sri Lanka for the ODIs, considering he has played the shorter version judiciously in recent years.
If Tendulkar is not available, Manoj Tiwary may be retained with the combination being eight batsmen, two spinners and five seamers, including Irfan Pathan. Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav (if fit), Ashok Dinda and Praveen Kumar are automatic choices in the pace department while Ravichandran Ashwin and Rahul Sharma are sureties among the spinners.
But the situation will turn tricky if Zaheer opts out. The selectors, then, will either pick a rookie like Shami Ahmed or go with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, keeping in mind September’s World Twenty20 to be held in Sri Lanka.
Maharashtra’s India ‘A’ left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar (12 wickets in four matches in West Indies) has an outside chance.
Also keeping in mind the World Twenty20, Harbhajan Singh may just be allowed to get back to his rhythm by playing for Essex. A good show for the county may see the Punjab tweaker back in the fold for the mega T20 event.
Likely squad: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Sachin Tendulkar/Manoj Tiwary, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, R Ashwin, Rahul Sharma, Zaheer Khan/Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Praveen Kumar, Ashok Dinda.
Will Manoj Tiwary get the boot?
It will be harsh on Manoj Tiwary if he doesn't find a place in the 15-member India party to tour Sri Lanka for five ODIs and the lone T20I, starting on July 22. But the fact is there is very little chance for Tiwary to retain his place with Ajinkya Rahane already in the frame, thanks to his tremendous form in the Indian Premier League V.
Now, if Sachin Tendulkar opts to play in the ODIs, Tiwary will surely have to sit out as the squad cannot have more than eight batsmen. Otherwise, the Bengal batting mainstay will just be able to retain his berth as the eighth batsman.
Tiwary, however, played his last ODI in December 2011 when he scored a match-winning 104 (retired hurt) against West Indies in Chennai. After that, he did not figure in an India XI.