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Will Rahul's form merit him a spot in the squad for Australia tour?

Last updated on: November 03, 2014 21:19 IST
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KL Rahul

KL Rahul. Photograph: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Karnataka's in-form young opener K L Rahul has staked a strong claim for inclusion in India's Test squad to Australia.

The selection of the touring squad will be done in Mumbai on Tuesday by the five-man selection committee, headed by Sandeep Patil.

Rahul’s timely centuries (185 and 130) for South Zone, albeit in a losing cause, in the Duleep Trophy final against Central Zone, come as reminder to the selectors of his form and ability.

The selectors are bound to give a serious thought about including the 23-year-old Bengaluru-born batsman as the third opener in the squad behind first-choice Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan -- who did the duty in the first two Tests of the series against England last season.

Rahul is expected to be included as the reserve opener in place of the experienced 33-year-old Gautam Gambhir.

Gambhir, who had replaced Dhawan in the last two Tests in England, was out of sorts on that tour, failing to cross the 20-run mark in four innings that he batted.

Saha likely to be second-choice 'keeper

Wriddhiman Saha

Wriddhiman Saha. Photograph: Getty Images

Rahul, however, could face some competition from Karnataka teammate Robin Uthappa, who also made a case for himself, having stroked a a ton against East Zone in the same competition.

The selectors will also deliberate on the choice of the second wicketkeeper, with Wriddhiman Saha, who was the reserve keeper in England, and Namaj Ojha in contention.

Ojha forced his way into reckoning after scoring a double hundred in the Duleep Trophy game against North Zone.

Saha, on the other hand, is keeping wickets in the absence of the rested Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the ODI series in progress against Sri Lanka and seems to hold the edge.

The selectors are bound to think long and hard about the bowling combination and it will depend on whether they opt for a smaller or jumbo squad of 18 that they picked for England.

No meddling with middle-order

Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharnma. Photograph: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

The middle and lower order batting line-up is more or less settled with Rohit Sharma showing in the warm-up game against Sri Lanka that he has recovered fully from the finger injury he sustained in England. He is set to retain his middle order slot.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkyha Rahane, Rohit and skipper Dhoni will fill up the middle order slots.

The five-man panel is bound to choose a battery of pace bowlers for the bouncy wickets in Australia but with injuries to Mohammed Shami and Varun Aaron, the former before the start of the ODI series against Lanka and the latter in Sunday's opener in Cuttack, the selectors could be in some quandry.

Ishant could lead India's pace attack

Ishant Sharma

Ishant Sharma. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

But with time on hand -- the Indian squad is set to depart for Australia on November 21 -- both bowlers should make the squad if the medical opinion goes in their favour.

Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar could spearhead the attack, and Stuart Binny is expected to be picked as the pace bowling all-rounder, as was the case in England, especially after picking seven wickets in the Duleep game against East Zone.

As far as the pace bowling department is concerned, Umesh Yadav is another option while a question mark hangs over Rajasthan's burly Pankaj Singh, who bowled reasonably well in England but did not generate enough pace to worry the batsmen.

Ishwar Pandey was the additional pace bowling option not used in the Test series in England.

But with injuries to Shami and Aaron, Singh could get the nod ahead of Pandey.

Karn can be surprise inclusion in squad

Karn Sharma

Ksrn Sharma. Photograph: BCCI

There could be a surprise in the spin department even though Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are front-runners for the position.

The third spot -- if the squad is big enough -- could go to an untested, orthodox leg break bowler like Karn Sharma of Uttar Pradesh, who picked four wickets for India 'A' in the one-off warm-up against Lanka, or even Karnataka youngster Shreyas Gopal, who has come into the picture of late.

Inconsistency could see Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla get the snub.

The opener of the four-match Test series is in Brisbane from December 4 and the remaining matches will be played in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

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