Chennai Test: Coming-of-age campaign

MS Dhoni

Michael Clarke broke into a spontaneous and lavish laudation when, at the pre-Test media conference, he was informed that Harbhajan Singh was to play his 100th Test on Friday. After the officious praise, he couldn't help but be a bit inquisitive. "Has Harbhajan announced the rest of the Indian team?" Clarke inquired. The reporters in the front row collectively shook their heads sideways. Clarke, amused, moved on to the next question while the cloud of suspense stayed over India's XI for the opening Test.

The ambiguity over the men Dhoni will pick to confront the Aussies summed up the transitional times that Indian cricket is going through. A dressing room with ageing seniors and yet-to-establish-themselves juniors, a batting line-up with gaping holes, a bowling department that resembles an uncertain herd searching for a shepherd — they have together combined to create an unstable environment and a fertile ground to breed selectorial speculations.

On the eve of a potentially watershed series that can hasten distinguished departures or announce grand arrivals, there was an uneasy calm and no clear answers at Chepauk. As Team India trained under the harsh sun, the pitch predictions ranged from it being a rank turner to a less-extreme 'spin-friendly surface'. The clues from the nets session too were not conclusive. Which India player will miss the cut was a question that triggered heated discussions. All were discussed, with the exception of Ashok Dinda, who is certain to perform the drinks duty. As for why a pacer who warms the bench in the one-dayers even gets picked for Test cricket is a debate for a less busy day.

Seven of India's 15-member squad are guaranteed to be on the list that Dhoni carries to the toss. However, it remains to be seen if this ring of certainty remains around Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma and Dhoni himself at the end, or even as this four-Test series proceeds.

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