The series all cricket enthusiasts have been looking forward to is fast approaching. While there is something less meaningful going on at the time of writing this article, all eyes are on the team that will get on-board the African Safari. People are looking forward to the next set of “young guns” who would be taming the Lion in its own den in the African Subcontinent.
The only batsman who scored Century in the land of Zulu, the last time India visited, has bid farewell to the game. The rest of the famous quartet have all changed their attires into tie and suit and are wielding the microphone now, far away from the action. The only other person who played few innings of substance the last time around and who can still probably make an impact on the series, is fighting for his spot in the team. By the end of the day, he would come to know, if the doors are open for him or probably closed forever. If you have not guessed it so far, it should not be that difficult to guess, we are talking about Gautam Gambhir. His selection is the only one, which might raise few eyebrows but also might calm down some fears in the dressing room. For the boys, would feel the presence of at least one senior batsmen who has been there and done that.
For Gambhir to grab a spot, he has only one choice, and that is facing the chin music. The person whose spot Gambhir is shooting for, in spite, of all his appetite for big scores and ability to score elegantly, he is yet to prove his pedigree outside India. No point for getting this right, we are talking about Murali Vijay.
There is one more spot in the middle order that is up for grabs. These are much bigger shoes to fill, when we look at the stats from the previous series(326 runs at an average of 81). While the expectations are that Virat Kohli would fill in that void, it would still leave a slot open in the middle. As always there are always speculations as to who the best fit for this, is. There is one guy who has been waiting on the wings for a while. He was given a few chances and an extended run a couple of years back, but the opportunities have dried up since then. He has always been in the reckoning, because he has been a consistent performer alongside the “The Wall” in the IPL. By now, you know, who I am talking about, yes, we are indeed talking about Ajinkya Rahane. This may not be his last chance for a slot in the Indian team, but this is the best time to consolidate the spot as the next twelve months of cricket that India plays is on unfamiliar grounds, where it has always been difficult for the “boys”.
As much as we all like our captain Super Fit/Hit to be always donning the Indian cap, we should always account for injuries. I doubt if there would be any better back up than Dinesh Kartik for this spot. He is the only one who is time tested and who is on the right side of the 30s, to be considered for wearing the blue cap.
The less we discuss about our bowling unit that will be boarding the flight, the better it is. The best part is, that leaves lot of spots up for grabs with few wanting to be on the plane. After the beating that he got on the domestic ODI series, I am sure Ishant is going through a conditioning camp, so that he does not run away at the sight of a batsman. As much as people get to write about him on Twitter, I still think, he needs to be on the flight, given his ability to hit the deck hard and also to keep on one end tight. Bhuvi can be handful only with the new ball. His skills with the old ball are yet to be proven and tested. That leaves only Shami( I am guessing he will be on the flight anyways, after all the media attention on his debut) and one more reserve spot to be taken. While many might argue that this spot belongs to Zaheer Khan, I would like to see Umesh Yadav to be considered (provided he is fit enough). A super fit Umesh Yadav firing at 140 kmph is much prettier sight, provided he gets his line and length right.
Last but not the least, we still have to talk about a spinner on the flight. Whether it would be Ojha or “Sir” Jaddu is too difficult to predict at this time. Ojha has never been tested outside. “Sir” can skid the ball with his non-spinners and swing the bat around a bit, when the need arrives and that might work in his favour. If you all wondered, why I have missed discussing about Ashwin in spinning options, I have already accounted for him in the list of batsmen to watch out for 🙂
-Rajusk [Rajusk leads our expedition team to the Cricket Galaxy]