The Indian selectors have got everything right in picking the team for the three Test tour of Sri Lanka. The quintet are generally criticized, quite often unfairly, but this is one time when they should be congratulated on picking a balanced combination, giving the right candidates an avenue and omitting players who did not deserve to be in the squad.
Let's take the case of Mahendra Singh Dhoni first. He had given enough hints of being fatigued playing non-stop cricket as he has been for so long. In the last 18 months Dhoni has played 14 Tests, 56 ODIs, eight Twenty20 internationals and all 16 matches in the IPL. It is a courageous move for no Indian cricketer likes to be out of the spotlight. He is aware of the danger of skipping a Test series for he could well be upstaged by either Parthiv Patel or Dinesh Karthik. Dhoni's Test career has had its ups and downs and cannot be compared to his record in the shorter versions of the game. But he has been honest and this has to be appreciated. The rest in fact could well see Dhoni recharge his batteries and emerge an even better player on his return.
Eyebrows might be raised as to why there are two wicket keepers in a squad touring neighbouring Sri Lanka. Patel obviously can double up as a third opener for there are only two specialist opening batsmen in Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Speaking of opening batsmen some may say it is hard on Wasim Jaffer who has got two double hundreds in Tests. But he did not really cover himself with glory in the matches against Australia and South Africa. Gambhir on the other hand is in the form of his life even if it is in ODIs and it is on the cards that he will carry this confidence into Test matches. His Test record by the way is not exactly mediocre and it is always good to have a left-right combination at the top.
There will be few tears shed for Yuvraj Singh. Since his masterly 169 against Pakistan at Bangalore in December last year he has scored 51 runs in six innings. There was just no point in sending him on a tour when he was going to be a passenger with the big four filling up the middle order. Under the circumstances it certainly is a better move to send Rohit Sharma as an extra batsman. The tour could well be a decisive learning curve for him and undoubtedly the prodigiously talented youngster from Mumbai surely the most organized young batsman in the country will benefit even if he doesn’t play a Test. His elevation is to be welcomed.
Another whose elevation is to be welcomed is Pragyan Ojha's. The IPL brought him into the limelight and the Asia Cup underlined his talent and ability. The Dilip Vengsarkar-led selection committee is really to be commended for rushing him into the Test squad even though he has played just three ODIs. Ojha is the kind of cricketer who deserved early national recognition and has to be backed as a long term prospect. Very keen on the game the 21-year-old left arm spinner is bound to pick up considerable knowledge as he plays understudy to Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh on the tour.
Irfan Pathan is obviously short on form, confidence and fitness and deserves a break during which he will hopefully work on his game, particularly his bowling. I have always felt that Indian cricket needs Pathan the bowler much more than Pathan the batsman and even with the plethora of fast bowlers around there will always be place for a fit and confident Pathan.
The rest of the squad picked itself. The big four have still a lot to contribute in Tests even if their contribution in limited overs cricket is dwindling. Sehwag at the top of the order is always a comforting thought and the buccaneering batsman is back at his most commanding his recent second triple hundred in Tests being the ultimate proof. Having served out his ban the return of Harbhajan was always on the cards and he and the captain still form a formidable spin force. As regards the pace attack with Pathan out and Sreesanth still unfit Munaf Patel had to get a look in even though it is unlikely that he will play a major role on the tour with Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Ishant Sharma in the squad.