When the selectors announced the Indian squad for the tour of Sri Lanka, there were no major surprises. With Virat Kohli time and again pressing on the need for pace to win test matches, the selectors have ably supported him by selecting his trusted pacers. From the spin front, only Amit Mishra’s name raised a few eyebrows. The veteran leggie from Haryana is set to become a part of India’s test squad after an agonizing gap of 4 years. Mishra last played a test for India against England in August 2011 at the KIA Oval. It was a game in which Mishra was wicketless, but performed with the bat in both the innings. The personnel in the batting department included the ones who toured Bangladesh for the one off test. The only addition there was of KL Rahul, who returns after an illness.
The squad selected for the tour of Sri Lanka by the sends out a clear message about Kohli’s modus operandi as the skipper. Like India’s former test skipper MS Dhoni, Kohli too relies on his certain set of players. However, that is where all the similarities between him and Dhoni end. While Dhoni relied on spin, Kohli keeps faith in his pacers, spearheaded by the inconsistent Ishant Sharma.
With the test series scheduled to begin from the 12th of August in Galle, it is time to decode the squad and analyze each member’s role in depth.
Shikhar Dhawan is all set to retain his place in the starting XI atleast for the tour opener. His exploits in the one off Bangladesh test were just a measure of his destructive abilities. Partnering Dhawan will be India’s Mr. Dependable M. Vijay. Vijay has proved himself as one of India’s most reliable batsmen in recent times. A solid technique, compounded by great concentration makes Vijay into a genuine asset for the Indians. KL Rahul, who scored a ton in his previous test, might have to miss out. He is likely to be the reserve opener. An out of the box role for him could be to bat at number 3, if Pujara continues to fail.
2. MIDDLE ORDER:
In Bangladesh, Kohli drew a lot of flak for benching Cheteshwar Pujara. Pujara is that kind of a batsman who will simply dominate in the subcontinent. Playing Rohit Sharma at his expense turned out to be a complete disaster for Kohli. In the Galle test, expect Pujara to be back at his number 3 slot. Considering that Kohli chooses 6 batsmen (along with a keeper) and five bowlers, it will be any one among KL Rahul, Pujara or Rohit Sharma who will bat at number 3. Kohli is well settled at number 4, so is Rahane at 5. However, considering a wearing track is laid out for India, then Rohit Sharma maybe asked to bat at 6, and India might play with four bowlers.
Wriddhiman Saha is the only wicketkeeper chosen by the Indian selectors. With no backup selected, the management once again sends out a clear message regarding its faith in Saha. The Bengal wicketkeeper however, has not justified his position one bit as his has failed to set the stage on fire. A string of poor scores in Sri Lanka could have a disastrous impact on Saha’s career provided the selectors still remember Naman Ojha’s name!
After a decent comeback test in Bangladesh, Harbhajan Singh has found a ticket on that flight to Sri Lanka. Sandeep Patil, the chief selector said that Singh was chosen not on his reputation as a veteran, but on his current form. As the Sri Lankan team is jam packed with left handers, one can envision both Harbhajan and Ashwin to play the Galle test. Mishra too might get a chance somewhere in the series. Mishra’s selection though, has made life incredibly hard for Pragyan Ojha, who struggles to strike form after remodeling his bowling action.
Mohammad Shami’s knee surgery has meant that he still isn’t fit enough to be considered for selection. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has the ability to swing the ball sharply in the morning session, is selected, despite being dropped in Bangladesh. Ishant Sharma is expected the lead the bowling attack, as he would surely want to improve his unattractive test statistics. Considering Kohli’s trust in extreme pace and reverse swing, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron will be expected to make the cut ahead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
India’s squad for the Sri Lanka tests:
Virat Kohli (c), Varun Aaron, R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Rohit Sharma, M Vijay, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul