It was in 2005 that Suresh Raina made his international debut as a special talent to be nurtured. While there is no doubting the value he brings to India’s ODI and T20 sides, he has done precious little in Tests.
Raina has been left out of the squad for the first two Tests against England. Possibly, the new selection committee shares the general view that he has been given too long a rope, when there are other credible options available.
The first meeting of the new selection panel, led by Sandeep Patil, was also attended by skipper MS Dhoni.
While Yuvraj Singh’s selection was on expected lines, there is an interesting inclusion. The selectors have named Murali Vijay in the 15-member squad. The Tamil Nadu bat may have found favour by virtue of his double century in the Irani Trophy. There must have been something in that innings that impressed the selectors, for Vijay wasn’t among the runs in the warm-up tie against England. Considering that Ajinkya Rahane, named in the 15, has been an opening option in the past, Vijay’s inclusion does come as a surprise.
“We have selected three openers, not four,” Patil was quoted as saying. “Rahane has been picked as a middle-order batsman.” This means S Badrinath, part of the unit in the home series against New Zealand, is out of the mix yet again. Denied opportunities at his peak, Badrinath is already 32.
Patil also spoke about giving Dhoni back-up options in each department, including a third spinner, Harbhajan Singh, who’s stranded on 98 Tests since 2011.
Harbhajan may not have been assessed by his reasonably fine Essex stint. Neither may he have been judged by his barren last column in the first innings against Hyderabad (Harbhajan snared three in the second dig though). England’s spin pneumonia and his recent four-wicket haul in the World T20 against the same opponent could have been taken into account. The acute deficit of quality spinners in India has been a factor for a few years now.
The selectors also retained Zaheer Khan, who was down with cramps during the Mumbai-Railways Ranji tie. Zaheer didn’t take the field on Monday as Railways averted the follow-on. He cleared a fitness test hours before the selection. It is thought that 10 days are a lot of time for Zaheer to be absolutely match fit. The overall selection was based on a zero-risk policy, which allowed Gautam Gambhir, without a significant big score in two years, to retain his place. India’s quicks weren’t tinkered with either.