Sehwag, Zaheer set to return for Sri Lanka tour
The duo, along with Zaheer`s pace understudy Umesh Yadav, sat out of the Asia Cup in Bangladesh in March on fitness grounds. They were also not part of the squad for the one-off Twenty 20 International in South Africa on March 30 which was India`s last international engagement.
With these three players expected to be available for selection, the squad for the Lanka tour – comprising only One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 ties – is set to see some changes from the side which flopped in the Asia Cup and lost the rain-hit T20 match to the hosts in Johannesburg by D/L method.
With Sehwag back in action, one of the other middle order batsmen from the Asia Cup squad will have to be sacrificed and Bengal`s Manoj Tiwary could be the man to make way for the former`s return.
It`s not clear whether Tendulkar, who had set the fabulous record of 100 international hundreds in the previous 50-over competition that India took part in, is available for the Lanka tour following his nomination as a Rajya Sabha member.
According to selection committee sources, things would become clear just before the five-member team sits down to choose the touring squad when the Cricket Board`s convener Sanjay Jagdale apprises them about the availability and fitness concerns, if any, of players in contention.
If by any chance Tendulkar decides to opt out of what is widely perceived to be a low-key series commencing on July 21, Ajinkya Rahane is the man most likely to be named as the third opener after Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
Another subject of debate could be whether experienced off spinner Harbhajan Singh should be given a recall after having been kept in cold storage for so long. The low bouncing, spinning tracks in Lanka could prompt the selectors to include the feisty bowler who led Mumbai Indians to a play-off spot in the Indian Premier League.
Rahul Sharma was part of the squad that went to Dhaka and South Africa and looks most likely to be left out if the selectors decide to bring back Harbhajan though it would mean lack of variety with R Ashwin almost certain of a place.
In the pace bowling department, the availability of Zaheer and Yadav means two from the quartet of Vinay Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Ashok Dinda and Irfan Pathan would have to make way unless Pathan makes it as a bowling all-rounder.
Ravindra Jadeja, a big disappointment in the IPL, is fighting to retain his place in the team but his main rival Yusuf Pathan too has not really impressed and the selectors could be left in a dilemma on the matter.
The only advantage for Jadeja is that he is a left-arm bowler while Pathan would be the fifth off-spin option if Harbhajan gets the nod with Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma also capable of chipping in when needed.
The selectors could also go in for a totally new face based on what the two committee members – Surendra Bhave and Narendra Hirwani – witnessed in the West Indies when watching the India A players in action there.
India A captain Cheteshwar Pujara was in good form in the four-day games and is largely considered as more suitable for the longer formats.
A newcomer like 25-year-old Jalaj Saxena (Madhya Pradesh) who could bat lower down the order and also bowl off spin, and medium pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Uttar Pradesh) could be the surprise selections based on what they did for India A in the West Indies.
In Sri Lanka, India will play against the hosts in a five-match ODI series between July 21 and August 4 followed by a one-off T20 game on August 7.