CHENNAI: After tours of South Africa and England, India do not seem to be all that bothered about their two-Test home series against West Indies. They are only keeping their sights on the long sojourn during the Australian summer.
The national selectors are looking at how to keep specialists like Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara primed for Tests and also give exposure to a new crop of youngsters.Even as they are doing so, the selectors have to be in sync with the team management’s thinking while picking the squad. The two were not on the same page in England while selecting the playing XI. It is apparent that the team management had not only its say, but its way too.
Yes, Australia has to be taken seriously, even if they are not the force they normally are without the likes of David Warner and Steve Smith. Their bowling strength remains intact, and that should worry the Indian batting line-up.
These days, no country would like to prepare green tops to scare India batsmen. Not because they are well-equipped to deal with it, but that their own batsmen will be in trouble against the top-class India pacers.
The selectors cannot be faulted for picking Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw. Both have done more than is required to be tested at the highest level. What about Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan? Have they dropped off the radar after England? Is Rohit Sharma also condemned to be only an ODI great?
Vijay should also be sent to New Zealand with the A team, along with Shaw and Agarwal, to see how he fares. Dhawan and Rohit — who has done exceptionally well Down Under in ODIs — will be playing in the T2oIs, a format that will not give them enough opportunities to prove their mettle on Australia’s bouncy pitches.
Karun Nair, who ended up being benched for the whole tour of England, did not play at the Oval, even when there was an opportunity for him to do so. Chief selector MSK Prasad obviously felt guilty for the way India’s second triple-centurion was treated by the team management, and was forced to talk to him for his West Indies omission.
It is an established fact that any player equipped with horizontal strokes is bound to succeed in Australia. Hence, KL Rahul should be given a free hand to bat down the order against West Indies, like Jos Buttler or Ben Stokes for England.
Though Rahul is the preferred opener, both Shaw and Agarwal should be tested together against West Indies, and Rahul should be tried out at No 6. But Virat Kohli has always insisted on playing five bowlers at home. That means even Hanuma Vihari — despite his gritty fifty at the Oval — will not be playing at No 6 if Rahul opens with either Shaw or Agarwal.
If five bowlers play, will it be three pacers — Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj — plus R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, or Kuldeep Yadav coming in for Siraj. Just like Shaw and Agarwal, Siraj is also in tremendous form. The 24-year-old seamer is in compelling form, with a whopping 40 wickets from nine first-class innings.
Another man who will be under the microscope is Rishabh Pant, more for his wicketkeeping than batting. The latter has looked promising, but he has to tighten up his glove-work.The selectors are in an unenviable position, as they have to take some tough decisions ahead of a tough tour.(The writer is a veteran commentator and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)