Selectors have picked a balanced side for the Australian tour
The selectors have kept faith in the young brigade and therefore have picked a balanced side, says Haresh Pandya.
The five "wise men" of Indian cricket couldn't possibly have selected a better team in present circumstances for the upcoming tour of Australia for a series of four Tests.
In a country where cricket is followed as a religion by legions of people, there will always be speculations. But you can't really please or satisfy everyone. Nor can you accommodate everybody's choices.
The rejuvenated Team India's winning streak against the West Indies at home after the disastrous England tour had made the selectors' task a lot easier.
More so, considering the fact that at least ten players picked themselves. That there isn't a single new batsman in a squad of 17 shows how strong India's batting is, although many leading willow-wielders had come a cropper in England.
As in the past, India will heavily rely on its formidable batting line-up down under to put pressure on the hosts, who are going through a lean phase after ruling the world for so long, and it's only fair to hope that all our frontline batsmen will carry their good form against the West Indies to Australia, too.
Except on the 1999-2000 tour, the Indian batsmen have fared collectively well Down Under than in any other country.
Image: Krish Srikkanth
Rohit Sharma's inclusion is on the expected lines
But this Indian batting line-up tends to flatter to deceive on occasions and from Virender Sehwag down to Virat Kohli, all the specialist batsmen will have to show a fair degree of consistency on the greentops down under.
They're bound to be severely tested by Australia's highly competent pace attack. With due respect to Sachin Tendulkar, the linchpins for India will be Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman given their current form and overall record down under.
Rohit Sharma's inclusion is on the expected lines. He may not yet have made his Test debut but he isn't new to international cricket.
His impressive technique against fast bowling, rich repertoire of shots and penchant for playing big innings with a positive frame of mind may have helped him edge over Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh, who have failed to grab many opportunities to establish themselves in the heavyweight division of cricket.
Sharma will come in handy should India need his services in emergency on a long tour where injuries to a couple of key batsmen can't be ruled out.
Much the same could be said about his Mumbai teammate Ajinkya Rahane, whose selection as the third opener was a foregone conclusion. Rahane is a rough diamond and this tour will surely polish him even if he doesn't get to play a single Test.
Image: Rohit Sharma
Kohli should be Dhoni's choice for No. 6 spot
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is likely to continue with his formula of playing six batsmen.
Virat Kohli will surely be his first choice as the sixth batsman. But in the event of any untoward situation in the form of Kohli or some other batsman sustaining an injury or suddenly finding himself out of touch, it may be a virtual toss-up between Sharma and Rahane to make the XI.
The selection of Wriddhiman Saha ahead of Parthiv Patel for the second wicketkeeper of the team is a bit surprising.
After all, the Gujarat captain hasn't failed to impress in his second avatar. Nor has Saha done anything extraordinary to merit selection.
But then this is Indian cricket and the selectors from different zones keep insisting on picking players from their regions irrespective of their talents or performances.
Image: Virat Kohli
Ashwin has been impressive
Ravichandran Ashwin's continuous noticeable success, first in ODIs and now in Tests, has virtually closed all the doors for off-spinner Harbhajan Singh of making a comeback.
Ashwin has gone from strength to strength and now that he has proved his ability with the bat with a century against the West Indies, he can claim to be a kingpin in Team India. He will love bowling to the Aussies, who are traditionally weak against quality off-spin bowling.
Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha's equally good run with the ball means the selectors are no longer keen to pick any right-arm leg-spinner.
It's after ages that a left-arm spinner has found a regular place in the Indian team. Or so it seems. Ashwin and Ojha have enjoyed bowling in tandem and they may pose some challenge to the Australian batsmen.
Image: R Ashwin
Zaheer back to lead the pack
As far as pace bowling is concerned, Zaheer Khan's return was always on the cards. But conditions do apply in his case. He is expected to prove his fitness in a couple of Ranji Trophy matches, according to the chairman of selectors Krishnamachari Srikkanth, and if everything is found satisfactory he will be flown to Australia.
It's better to keep one's finger crossed in Zaheer's case. Of course, a fully match-fit Zaheer can make a lot of difference to India's fortune down under.
Considering the nature of Australian wickets, save at Sydney, where the pitch is spin-friendly, both Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma will be expected to bowl many overs. Dhoni has two other youngsters in pace arsenal to choose from -- Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron.
Captain Cool will have to strike a right balance when it comes to picking spinners and speedsters given the Australian pitches and the experience of the home batsmen.
Doubtless Australians are no longer world champions. And even though they are playing at home, this Indian team has the nucleus to give them a good run for their money.
Dhoni and company have long formed a habit of winning abroad, too, (the nightmarish tour of England being an aberration) and one would not be surprised if they make the Kangaroos hop and dance in their own land.
In the final analysis, however, it boils down to a sustained collective effort.
Image: Zaheer Khan