Varun Aaron may be retained

Selectors in favour of Jharkhand pacer for the first two ODIs vs England; with too many spin options at their disposal, Harbhajan could find it difficult to get the nod.

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni steadfastly avoided picking Varun Aaron during the recent one-day series against England. Supposedly the fastest bowler in India, Aaron warmed the benches in the cool climes of England, watching the action from the sidelines.

Commentator after commentator questioned the team management’s wisdom to leave Aaron out but Dhoni would not listen. A semi-fit RP Singh and a frazzled Munaf Patel were preferred to a young and fresh bowler like Aaron.

So, the national selection committee, which meets in Chennai on Thursday to pick the sides for the first two ODIs to be held in India next month, may throw up a challenge to the India skipper as to how long he would keep his statemate outside of the playing XI.

Indications are that Aaron has a very good chance of being picked for the matches. It would be interesting to see how Dhoni, who is expected to be present at the meeting, will handle the young pacer. The 21-year-old bowler figures in the Rest of India squad that takes on Ranji champions Rajasthan in the Irani Trophy in Jaipur from October 1. But chances are that he is set to be picked for the ODIs as well.

More than Aaron, Dhoni will have a lot of firefighting to do to have Harbhajan Singh — his friend — picked for the matches. Indications are that the offie, who was completely off-colour in England before returning home injured, is not in the selectors’ mind.

As the skipper of Mumbai Indians team, Harbhajan has been doing well both with bat and ball but the selection committee seems to have other ideas. If he still manages to get in, it could be courtesy Dhoni but that is a distinct possibility. The selectors seem to think that there are myriad options in the spin department. R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja besides, of course, Harbhajan are the choices available to them.

In the meanwhile, there was a talk that Dhoni himself might be rested for the series but committee insiders say that is unlikely to happen. “As of today, we have no such information,” said a selector, without willing to be named. Injured seniors like Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag are set to be rested. Gautam Gambhir, however, may get the nod but Ishant Sharma is still doubtful. Other absentees will be Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel and Rohit Sharma.

In the absence of these key men, the selectors could look for youngsters. One of them of course would be Aaron. So fringe players like S Sreesanth, Pankaj Singh, Abhimanyu Mithun may be considered. In batting, Saurabh Tiwary, another upcoming player from Jharkhand, also has a chance.

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