In Test squad for Australia, a few surprises in the offing


Eight overseas Test on the trot and then a home loss to England — India's Test fortunes have been slipping steadily for a while now, and in the squad for the Australia series, there may be a surprise or two.

One of the names doing the rounds is that of prolific Mumbai opener Wasim Jaffer. Despite playing only part of his sides Ranji campaign, Jaffer tallied 835 runs, and with his 80 in the first innings of the Irani Trophy match, a knock that was watched by the selectors, his average has nudged up to 76.25 for the season. The elegant righthander averages 34.1 in 31 matches for India with two double hundreds. The other option for the slot of the standby opener is Murali Vijay, who had a mediocre Ranji season averaging 17.25 for Tamil Nadu but scored a hundred in the Irani Trophy game.

It is not surprising that it is the opener's slot that is receiving a lot of scrutiny, as Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have been struggling for some time now. In the last two years, Sehwag averages 32.03 from 15 games with a single ton. Gambhir's record is worse, with the southpaw averaging 28.1 in 16 matches without a single hundred.

In the pace bowling department, Zaheer Khan is still recovering from a calf injury and Umesh Yadav's back strain not healing as fast as was expected and both are likely to miss at least the first half of the Test series. While Yadav might miss the entire series, Khan is expected to be back for the final two Tests.

Even for the first couple of Tests, there is uncertainty over who will lead the attack. Ishant Sharma has reportedly felt an ankle niggle but he might well have to carry on with it for the series. Sreesanth, who has just returned from more than a year out due to multiple surgeries on his toes, might be a surprise pick. Though he picked up just a wicket during the first innings of the Irani trophy, his Test experience might get him in ahead of the likes of Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed and Ishwar Pandey.

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