Gautam Gambhir has got the axe for the first two Tests against Australia and his Delhi mate, Shikhar Dhawan, has been drafted into the squad of 15. Virender Sehwag has retained his place, while Murali Vijay has been picked up as the second opener.
You somehow can’t envisage an 11 without Harbhajan Singh when Australia come to India. His selection was on expected lines as was that of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, rewarded for his impressive show in the recent ODIs against Pakistan and England. Zaheer Khan has been left out, for it’s not established whether he is match fit.
The fate that Sehwag met with in the recent ODIs has befallen Gambhir in the Tests. His scores in the last six Tests at home — 22, 2, 34, 45, 4, 65, 60, 40, 37 — may suggest that he has been done hard by.
But some of these knocks may not have gone down well with the team management. Perhaps, they were perceived to be desperate attempts to protect his place rather than playing in the team’s interests.
For the statistically inclined, he hasn’t got a Test hundred in his last 26 matches. That said, Gambhir’s record at home against Australia is quite impressive — 492 at 49.20 in five Tests, with a career best of 206 in Delhi in 2008.
The Sehwag-Gambhir combination may have been given one more chance, given the stakes in this series. Twenty-seven-year-old Dhawan has been in good form, but other openers, too, have scored prolifically this season and have better numbers than him.
Wasim Jaffer continues to be overlooked despite loads of runs this year — 835 in seven Ranji matches before scoring 83 and 101 not out in the Irani Cup (didn’t the Rest of India bowlers bear a semblance to the India attack?). Jaffer is 34, and it appears that the doors have been shut on him forever, regardless of how big he scores.
Also, Dhawan’s record in the five ODIs he played is abysmal — he averages13.80, with the highest score of 51. The only logic behind his selection could be the fact that he’s a left-hander who has replaced another southpaw (Gambhir).
It would be a surprise if Dhawan makes it to the Test eleven. Bear in mind that Vijay was part of India’s Test squad in the home series against England.
In showing Gambhir the door, the selectors have sent the ‘shape up or ship out’ message loud and clear. It could be a subtle reminder to Sehwag to pull up his socks.
It was bizarre that Sehwag, who was to lead RoI in the Irani Cup, pulled out owing to an upset stomach, depriving himself of valuable practice.