However tempted the national selectors might have been in picking left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav after his good showing in the Duleep Trophy recently, their combined wisdom opted to go with the more versatile Ravindra Jadeja for the home Test series against New Zealand.
Yadav has a greater range of deliveries with his chinaman and googlies which may be a welcome inclusion in the future, but Jadeja sends down his left-arm spin at a pace that could come in very handy on crumbling tracks. He is not a big spinner of the ball but is flat, fast and accurate enough to play the perfect foil for the more traditional spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra. Additionally he is an excellent fielder and could be expected to bat competently in Indian conditions.
The only other bowling option the selectors might have been tempted to try out in home conditions was Stuart Binny. On rank turners he could have been the medium pace all-rounder to take the shine off the ball while the team attacked with three spinners. But the selectors decided that the batting skills of Ashwin, Jadeja and wicket-keeper Wriddhman Saha were sufficient to prop up the lower middle order and they did not need a bits and pieces cricketer like Binny in the mix.
Thus the selection committee - probably sitting for the last time before the Lodha report-induced changes kick in after the BCCI AGM on 21 September - opted to simply prune the 17-member team that went to West Indies by a mere two players – Binny and Mumbai medium pacer Sharadul Thakkur.
A 15-member squad for a home series is normally unusual, but with the selectors having chosen the team for all three Tests (Kanpur from 22 Sept; Kolkata from 30 Sept and Indore from 8 Oct), rather than the customary one or two Tests, they seem to have packed the squad with ample batsmen, spinners and medium pace bowlers.
Gautam Gambhir, the former Test opening batsmen who has been among runs in Duleep Trophy or Manish Pandey who is batting superbly on the India A tour of Australia, might consider themselves unlucky not to make the cut considering that Shikhar Dhawan has been in indifferent form of late.
But the selectors have decided to stick with Dhawan although it is highly unlikely that he would get a look-in ahead of the in-form opening batsmen KL Rahul and Murali Vijay.
Rahul, who excelled on international soil with centuries in Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies, is yet to play a Test on Indian soil. Thus the Kanpur Test would be a pretty special event for him.
Once the selectors chose to go with 15 players the team selection was hardly difficult. Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane were all accommodated rather than the selectors having to fit two of these three in a 13 or 14-man squad. Likewise all the pacers, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuveneshwar Kumar were a shoo-in.
Thus skipper Virat Kohli has been given a pretty settled squad. He’s been with the boys for over two months in the West Indies and that would have helped the players bond well.
If the pitches accommodate spin, as is expected, he would go with any two of the pacers and play all three spinners. However the dilemma of which batsman or pacers to leave out is not an issue for now. That would come on the morning of the first Test.
For now, the New Zealanders, strong as they are with their pace bowling and batting departments, would have their task cut out on Indian pitches and against an Indian team that revels in these conditions.
For Kohli’s young team this is the start of their home season of hope.
Virat Kohli (C), KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, R. Ashwin, W. Saha (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Md. Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Shikhar Dhawan, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav.