India would be embarking on a tour to Australia a few days after finishing its series with Sri Lanka at home. The tour is expected to start with the Test series, a form where the Indian team has not done too well in the last few years as far as overseas tours in green and pace-friendly conditions are concerned. The Indian team was originally supposed to be chosen on November 4 but now the date has been pushed to November 9 after the conclusion of the third One Day game against Sri Lanka – this is when the selectors will also pick the squad for the remaining two ODIs of the ongoing series.
Before the team for the Test series is picked it could be worthwhile to look at the options that India has in terms of personnel who can be entrusted with the responsibility of winning a Test series in Australia for the first time or at least perform better than how it did during the 4-0 drubbing during the last outing over there.
Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay
To start with, India will depend on two settled openers in Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay. The reserve opener, one feels, should be either Jiwanjot Singh, who has been opening for India A with some degree of success, or Lokesh Rahul, who appears to be in red hot form right now and also has the backing of Rahul Dravid. Gautam Gambhir had been given a chance during the England series but he was unable to justify his selection with performance. Therefore, it is unlikely that he will receive another chance any time soon.
Now coming to the middle order batsmen, three to four spots should be considered no-brainers – Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. As far as the reserve batsman is concerned, Suresh Raina seems to be an obvious choice given how he has made a comeback to the Indian team in the One Day games as a vastly improved player and has been contributing continuously. His mental strength and will to adapt could actually help him play well as number 6 in Australia. What will further work in his favour is his ability to bowl a few overs as and when needed. Since India does not have the luxury of an all rounder in its top 6 and it is unlikely that Dhoni would opt for 5 bowlers in Australia too often, he could be a logical choice in the first eleven.
As far as wicketkeepers are concerned, Wriddhiman Saha, right now the deputy of MS Dhoni and the one tipped to take over when Dhoni calls it quits, could find himself on the plane to Australia. However, he would have some competition from Naman Ojha, who has been scoring a lot of runs lately and has also performed creditably for India A during its recent tour to Australia.
The likely spinners
In all probability, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin will be the spinners on board. With their ability to contribute with the bat they could also come into play together in Adelaide and perhaps in Sydney as well where the conditions could encourage Dhoni to play two spinners and three quick bowlers in the first eleven.
As far as fast bowling is concerned, five names should be regarded as automatic choices – Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami would most probably be the first choices of Dhoni and provided both are fit Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav would be chosen automatically as well. Now, considering the long nature of the tour and the conditions over there, India is thinking of taking a couple of quick bowlers so that there is adequate cover in the team. In that case, Pankaj Singh and Ishwar Pandey should be the obvious choices having taken part in the England tour.