Captain resists change
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It is learnt that the selectors, not too pleased with Harbhajan Singh's show in the second Test, had floated the idea of replacing the off-spinner with a leg-spinner for the December 5 to 9 Test at Eden Gardens. This minor tweak would have given more variety to the spin department that has two offies in Harbhajan and R Ashwin. The odds-on favourite being Haryana's Amit Mishra, who had picked a five-wicket haul in the ongoing Ranji round. But Dhoni didn't want to alter the squad — it was a decision that gave Harbhajan another Test at a venue where he has so often come into his own.
The 99-Test veteran has 46 wickets in seven Tests at Kolkata, including a hat-trick. In case Dhoni, like in Mumbai, continues with his three-spinners strategy, Harbhajan will once again walk on the Eden turf. It isn't just the famous Test against Australia in 2001 that provides Harbhajan happy memories of the venue. A couple of years ago, an out-of-form Harbhajan came to Eden with a cloud of uncertainty over his place. Trailing 0-1 in the series against South Africa, India was desperate for a win. Harbhajan finished with 8-wickets to make it 1-1.
But despite the terrific past record at Eden, Harbhajan could end up on bench in case Dhoni takes field with two pacers and two spinners. Since both Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin have done enough to get picked before the senior-most spinner in the side, Harbhajan could end up doing drinks duty.
The '2-2' bowling combination also means Dhoni will miss pacer Umesh Yadav, who will not be a part of the team as he is yet to recover from the lower back injury that sidelined him for the second Test. Bengal's Ashok Dinda is the third seamer, along with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, and if a source is to be believed, has a good chance of making his Test debut.
Interestingly, a BCCI release on Monday said that the selectors were to pick the teams for the last two Tests and two T20 internationals on Tuesday. "We took the decision on the floor. We are against a knee-jerk reaction after a loss. At the same time, we want to assess the performance match by match," said a selector.
Team for 3rd Test: MS Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Murali Vijay, Zaheer Khan.