Gautam Gambhir will lead a 16-member Indian team in the limited-over leg of its tour of the West Indies from June 4. The opener impressed as India captain by leading the side to a 5-0 sweep over New Zealand in the ODI series at home last season. The influential Suresh Raina has been named Gambhir’s deputy.
The Delhi left-hander possesses an analytical mind that can plan and execute. In how Gambhir manages and motivates a side without some big names in the Caribbean lies the 29-year-old batsman’s biggest test. A lifeline The resting of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan, coupled with injuries to Virender Sehwag and Ashish Nehra, have offered a lifeline to some familiar faces who lost their spots in the Indian team due to varying reasons.
Dhoni, Tendulkar and Zaheer will be available for the three-Test series in the West Indies while Sehwag is not expected to recover from his shoulder surgery in time for the series. Nehra, still nursing a broken finger, has not been in contention for a Test place in any case.
The selection panel, headed by K. Srikkanth, which met here on Friday, displayed greater faith in players with some international experience than raw youngsters who have sizzled in the ongoing Indian Premier League. The meeting was attended by new coach Duncan Fletcher. S. Badrinath makes a welcome comeback to the Indian middle-order.
A heavy scorer on the domestic circuit, he has also been able to adapt his game to the shorter formats. The right-hander is in roaring form now. Rohit Sharma, another batsman among the runs in recent times, has got another look-in. The onus is on this natural stroke-maker to cash in on the opportunity. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra edged out Rahul Sharma for the third spinner’s spot. Mishra’s greater experience swung the debate in his favour this time but the young Rahul holds out much promise.
He is definitely on the selectors’ radar. Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and left-arm spinner and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja could not force their way in. It is evident that the selectors are seeking an attacking leg-spin option. The wise men have chosen Parthiv Patel and Wriddhiman Saha as the wicketkeeper-batsmen.
Parthiv is expected to open the innings with Gambhir. Batsmen-wicketkeepers such as Ambati Rayadu and Robin Uthappa have not been able to change the selectors’ line of thinking. In the pace department, the consistent Munaf Patel keeps his place. Ishant Sharma, who has bowled with good rhythm in the IPL and tested the batsmen with his two-way seam movement and bounce, is back in the pace pack.
Praveen, Vinay back India missed Praveen Kumar’s control and swing with the new ball in the World Cup. The crafty paceman returns to the side. There is reward too for Vinay Kumar.
The paceman comprehends situations capably and can disrupt the rhythm of the batsmen with his variety. Srikkanth said, “This is a well-balanced side that should do well in the West Indies. The team also shows that Indian cricket has plenty of depth.”