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Select your Test squad for Australia: Will Raina, Rahul make the cut?

October 31, 2014 18:19 IST

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (right) with Suresh Raina

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (right) and Suresh Raina. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

The selectors face a major headache when they sit down on Tuesday to finalise India’s Test squad for the tour of Australia next month. Following a poor showing overseas over the last few years, including the 1-3 defeat in England earlier this year, they have a lot to ponder over.

In England, the team was badly let down by their batting. The two mainstays, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, scored just 134 and 222 runs respectively in the five matches.

Talk about Suresh Raina being included in the Test squad has gathered a lot of steam in the last few months after his impressive showing the ODI series in England and the Champions League T20 for Chennai Super Kings.

Team Director Ravi Shastri has expressed a desire to have Raina, who appears to have come to grips with his short ball problems, back.

Rohit Sharma, who scored 142 in his first outing after an injury lay-off for India ‘A’ against Sri Lanka in the warm-up match, looks set to retain his place in the squad. However, his below-par performances away from home may force the selectors to have an extra option in Raina, who, despite being one of the world’s best batsmen in limited-overs’ cricket, hasn’t been able to adjust to the rigours of Tests.

As far as the opening slot is concerned, Gautam Gambhir is certain to get the axe after two poor games in England.

Shikhar Dhawan’s poor run in England also makes it mandatory for an extra opener to be picked.

KL Rahul in action for India 'A'

KL Rahul in action for India 'A' in July 2014. Photograph: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Karnataka's KL Rahul has emerged a frontrunner for that reserve slot following a superb showing in the Ranji Trophy last year (1033 runs in 10 matches) and a smashing knock of 185 for South Zone against Central Zone in the ongoing Duleep Trophy final.

All-rounder Stuart Binny is yet to convince with his medium pace bowling and it is unlikely that he will be retained. His place, in all probability, could go to a fast bowler or spin all-rounder, which could be Gujarat left-armer Akshar Patel, who fared well across all formats last season.

Naman Ojha in action for India 'A'

Naman Ojha in action for India 'A' in July 2014. Photograph: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

The reserve wicketkeeper’s slot could well go to Naman Ojha. He scored three straight centuries -- 219 not out, 101 not out and 110 -- in his last three innings in Australia when playing for India ‘A’ in the unofficial two-Test series against Australia ‘A’.

It will be interesting to see if India opt for veteran Zaheer Khan given his injury woes in the last few years or go for the extra pace of Umesh Yadav, who is exciting but lacks consistency.

Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar along with frontline spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, are certain to make the cut.

India named 18 players in the Test squad when they toured England earlier this year and could again go with the same figure for the long tour of Australia.

Probable Test squad for Australia: 1. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain, w/k), 2. Virat Kohli, 3. Shikhar Dhawan, 4. Murali Vijay, 5. KL Rahul, 6. Cheteshwar Pujara, 7. Ajinkya Rahane, 8. Rohit Sharma, 9. Suresh Raina, 10, Naman Ojha/Wriddhiman Saha (w/k), 11. Ravichandran Ashwin, 12. Ravindra Jadeja, 13. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 14. Mohammed Shami, 15. Ishant Sharma, 16. Varun Aaron, 17. Umesh Yadav/Zaheer Khan 18. Akshar Patel/Stuart Binny/Ishwar Pandey.

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Harish Kotian