Thursday, December 13, 2007

Australia vs India: Indian Squad

Indian selectors have declared 16 men Indian squad for India’s tour to Australia 2007-2008. India will face Australia in four match test series prior to take part in a triangular series involving Australia and Sri Lanka. The first test of the series is set to start at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 26 December 2007. This is the first Australia tour for Team India since their last tour four years ago when India could draw the test series 1-1. Now, fans are excited over the upcoming series remembering that previous close series in Australia.

In the squad, Indian selectors have come up with two surprise calls. Opener Virender Sehwag has been called up in the 16 member team along with new comer Pankaj Singh who has been impressive with his performance for Rajasthan in Ranji Trophy and India A’s tour to Kenya and Zimbabwe. The inclusion of Sehwag has brought lots of media criticism in India and it seems to go on in the coming days as well. Virender Sehwag has been out of from since India’s tour to South Africa last year. Moreover, his recent performance in domestic cricket is now impressive at all. His last few domestic innings are- 16, 0, 9, 32, and 9 runs.

Indian Bowling

India’s squad for Australia tour includes seven bowlers- five pacers and two spinners. The pacers are Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ishant Sharma and Pankaj Singh. Captain Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh are included as the spinners. Sreesanth was opted out of the team due to his lack of fitness. However, the exclusion of Munaf Patel from the squad came as another surprise from the selectors. Munaf has been advised to play some more domestic matches and he will be first observed by the Ranji Trophy selectors before he is further called up. I think, Indian selectors should have kept Munaf in the squad as he has some experience in International cricket. When it comes to a series against Australia, a team can not afford to exclude an experienced one.

Murali Karthik also failed to take a place for him in the squad as Indian selectors opted for including two spinners thinking off the seaming condition of Australia. No doubt, Australian condition hardly provides any help for the spinners. Ishant Sharma has showed impressive performance with his five wickets haul in Bangalore test against Pakistan that has opened the door of Australia tour for this youngster. Irfan Pathan was also drafted in the Bangalore test after a long time though could not show anything special with this bowling this time around. However, I think, Irfan Pathan can be an effective performance in Australian condition. Specially, indicating Indian’s last tour to Australia, I would like to say that he has a lot to give for India in Australia. New face Pankaj Singh has spent a terrific season in Ranji Trophy with his team Rajasthan. With this pace attack, he helped Rajasthan to reach in the league plate final last season. He went on to show his impressive performance for India A in the tour to Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Indian Batting

I think, selectors have faced some problems while selecting the batsman as there are many consistent performers at this moment in the squad. However, picking up Virender Sehwag, to me, was a wrong decision. It does not mean that I am questioning his talent and skill as a devastating opener. Rather, I would like to say that his inclusion might play a negative role for this talented opener. For instant, if he is given a chance in Australia and he fails then it is obvious that he will be out of Indian team for a long time, if not forever. So, it would have been better he could make it to the Indian team the way Sourav Ganguly did. At this moment, Sehwag needs to get back his form and boost up his confidence level. I admit that his style of playing is aggressive which is very effective against Australia. Even he proved it in India’s previous tour to Australia. However, I can not be so much optimistic regarding his success in Australia. After so many media criticism, he was drafted in India’s world cup team but, he could not impress. Now, Indian selectors should have thought about the other players who are continuously performing for Indian team. I wish Virender Sehwag a long career for Indian team and that is why, I would have been happy to see Sehwag come back strongly in the Indian team with some big scores in the domestic cricket.

India included nine batsmen in the squads. They are- Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik. So, selecting final line from this list is really very hard as almost all of them have good performance with Indian team in the recent past. I think, Wasim Jaffer as opener has booked his place at least for the first test in Australia. Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly are certain to be in the final line of first test. Both Laxman and Yuvraj are now in prime form and it would be unfair to keep any of them out of the team. Specially, for Yuvraj Singh, I must say Yuvraj Singh deserves a place in the final line up. His excellent innings of 169 runs in the third test against Pakistan and his continuous performance with India’s ODI team is enough to claim a place in India’s test team in Australia. On the other hand, Laxman is one of those few batsmen who consistently perform against Australia. His recent form is not bad either. He played a big role behind India’s only test victory against Pakistan in the recent test series.

Then comes ODI and Twenty20 captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the squad. No doubt, his aggressive style of batting can be effective enough for India. Second wicketkeeper, Dinesh Karthik is also playing well. In the final day of the third test, Karthik hit a good half century. Earlier in the test series against England, Dinesh Karthik was one of the highest scorers. Moreover, Dinesh Karthik is one of the three openers available in the squad besides Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag.

Now, the situation is really very hard for the Indian team management to pick up the best eleven from this squad. Except Virender Sehwag, the other batsmen are now in good form. Now, the question comes in here is that if India plays with five bowlers and six batsmen or four bowlers and seven batsmen. Even if India plays seven batsmen, still they have to exclude two batsmen from the final eleven. Suppose, Wasim Jaffer along with either Dinesh Karthik or Virender Sehwag in the opening. Then Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly come in no 3, 4 and 5 respectively. If VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Sing are sent in no. 6 and 7 respectively then where is the place for ODI and Twenty20 captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

So, deciding over this matter seems very hard to me. However, there is a speculation that Irfan Pathan or Rahul Dravid can be asked to open with Wasim Jaffer that, I thin, would be a wrong decision. When it is comes to play against Australia in their own soil, there is no chance to play gamble. Neither Rahul Dravid not Irfan Pathan is specialist opener. For bowlers, I think, India should play at least three pacers in Australian condition along with one or two spinners depending on the team combination.

India’s Squad for Australia Tour
Anil Kumble (captain), Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ishant Sharma, Pankaj Singh, Dinesh Karthik

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