Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan are back. Well, sort of. They have been picked to play for India A in two of the three four-day games against West Indies A. Having been ignored since the India lost 2-1 to England eight months ago; their selection represents a potential lifeline, a chance to restate their claims for a place in the Test side. Zaheer probably has the best chance to get back into the India side because the bowling attack lacks a leader. There might also be a small window for one of the openers to be picked. Shikhar Dhawan is clearly first choice, but Murali Vijay and Rohit Sharma aren’t exactly slam dunk choices, even if Duncan Fletcher seems to like the idea of Rohit opening. So if Sehwag or Gambhir can make a couple of big scores, they will find their way back into the squad.
It is possible one of them or both, have something left in the tank. I would have thought differently if India had a settled opening pair, and picking Sehwag or Gambhir threatened to destabilise them. But that isn’t the case. For all of Dhawan’s recent brilliance, he has only played one Test match. He seems to have the mental strength to succeed over the long haul, but he still needs to prove himself. Remember Vinod Kambli’s start in Tests? That didn’t turn out so well in the end. Injuries could also hurt India so this is the right move. The one possible complication is that if one or both of them score big runs, and they get picked in the Test squad, then they have to play. I can’t see Sehwag being 12th man. Or Gambhir for that matter. So selecting them will come with an intent to play them. Some of the younger players who might been given a chance don’t seem ready. Abhinav Mukund fell off last year – averaging just 27.8 from 16 matches with a highest score of 73. So he has to regroup and make his case all over again (which he is young enough to do). And I think Rahul Dewan and Jiwanjot Singh are still a little raw for top level cricket. I also tend to lean towards experience over raw talent.
I know Gambhir and Sehwag have been good enough to succeed at the international level. Are they still good enough? Hopefully the India A series will give us some answers. I suspect Sehwag might just be in the same situation as Roger Federer. Sehwag has played cricket his own way and refused to bow to convention. Perhaps age has dulled his abilities just enough to reduce him to mortal status. I don’t know if he can adapt his game either, the way Sachin Tendulkar did. His strength was his unconventionality. Gambhir is the more interesting case for me. He just made a century for Essex and if he can stop trying to jab the ball to third man, could be the ideal foil for Dhawan much in the same way that he was for Sehwag. Reportedly, he also had attitude problems after India won the World Cup. He can get his head and his game right, he has a few more years to give India while the younger generation finds its way. That for me would be the ideal situation.
So I would like to see Gambhir get back in the squad. Sehwag I believe is past his best, though I would be happy to be proved wrong. Zaheer hopefully is fit – he has been working hard on his fitness – and if he can stay on the field, would replace Ishant in my squad. My India Test XI: Dhawan, Gambhir, Pujara, Tendulkar, Kohli, Dhoni, Jadeja, Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar, Ishant/Zaheer, Umesh.