India's selectors have banked on an excessive dose of fast-medium bowling, calling up Mumbai's Shardul Thakur as an additional option for the four-Test tour of the West Indies in July-August.
In the past, unevenness of pitches in the West Indies have been exploited by local fast bowlers much to the discomfort of visiting batsmen, and hence India, by choosing a plethora of fast bowlers, has ensured that they would not be caught napping again. Thus, Thakur who has done well by Mumbai the past two seasons, gets a call to further strengthen a pace attack which includes Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Stuart Binny. Between the six of them, they should be able to cover both pace and swing, though in all probability no more than three would be fielded in the playing XI.
The selection must come as a big relief for Thakur, after he was released by his IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab midway through this season, without really being tried out. KXIP, coached by Sanjay Bangar, went along with pacemen Mohit Sharma and Sandeep Sharma instead of Thakur, and decided to send the young Mumbai pacer back. The move might have caused psychological damage to the 24-year-old, but being picked for the national side would make it appear worthwhile.
Besides choosing the six pace bowlers, the Indian selectors — Sandeep Patil (chairman), Vikram Rathour, Saba Karim, MSK Prasad and Gagan Khoda — have also opted for three spinners: R Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja. Skipper Virat Kohli now has plenty of options to form his bowling attack for each of the four Tests, regardless of what combination he goes with.
There are no surprises in the batting line-up. However, with Ajinkya Rahane being elevated to vice-captain, it might well be difficult for Rohit Sharma to break into the playing XI, especially if the team opts to go along with the more sedate Cheteshwar Pujara at number four. Skipper Kohli prefers a five-man bowling attack unlike his predecessors, who were comfortable carrying an extra batsman at the cost of the bowling, and there would hence be one less opening in the batting department.
But it is the selection of the limited overs squad to tour Zimbabwe that has thrown in a few surprises. Left hand Vidarbha opening batsman Faiz Faisal, who is on the wrong side of 30 already, has been chosen on the back of a century in the Irani Trophy. The spot could have probably gone to a younger batsman in a bid to groom him, but Fazal has had a fairly good domestic season.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni leads a decidedly second string team which would play three ODIs and three T20Is. However, it must be said that the youngsters would stand to benefit tremendously from his guidance.
The choice of left-arm fast bowler Barinder Sran, who could be groomed into another Zaheer Khan, must also be appreciated. So too the selection of leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. His bowling and temperament in the IPL have drawn a lot of praise and the selection is just reward for the youngster. Middle-order batsman Karun Nair's consistent performances in domestic and IPL cricket have also been appreciated. However, the selection of players like Rishi Dhawan, Jaydev Unadkat and Kedar Jadhav defies logic.
KL Rahul is the only player common to both squads and he deserves all the exposure he can get, for he certainly is one with the potential to serve Indian cricket for long.
There is to be a long list of matches — Tests, ODIs and T20Is — scheduled for the Indian winter, and it remains to be seen how many of these young players would come through to hold fort.
All matches on the Zimbabwe tour are day games, and will all be held in the capital city of Harare. It is winter in the southern hemisphere and the ODIs are scheduled to start at 12.30 pm IST, while the T20Is would start at 4.30 pm IST.
Test side (West Indies): Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Stuart Binny
ODI and T20 squad (Zimbabwe): MS Dhoni, KL Rahul, Faiz Fazal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Ambati Rayudu, Rishi Dhawan, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jasprit Bumrah, Barinder Sran, Mandeep Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Jaydev Unadkat, Yuzvendra Chahal