Team selection: Which players can get drafted into the Indian team in the absence of star players?

The senior selection committee led by Sandeep Patil will have to look at the bowling combination in absence of pace spearhead Ishant Sharma as they meet in capital on Monday to select the squads for the last two ODIs and first two Test matches.

Sandeep Patil

While the ODI team selection may not have any surprises apart from selectors checking in on Ravichandran Ashwin’s injury status, the bowling unit for Test matches can be a tricky selection issue with Ishant suffering a hamstring injury during Ranji Trophy match against Haryana.

Most of the 15-men, who clinched a 2-1 series win on Sri Lankan soil after 22 years, are likely find a berth in the two matches in Mohali and Bengaluru. Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma automatically select themselves among the batsmen. The reserve batsman should be KL Rahul, who scored a century along with string of low scores in the Sri Lanka series. Bengal’s Wriddhiman Saha, who missed the final Lanka Test due to a hamstring injury, is expected to be back with the big gloves although Naman Ojha is close on his heels.

The three pacers set to be selected are Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron. With no quality all-rounders in sight, Stuart Binny may just retain his place after a decent outing in the final Test against Sri Lanka. The pace battery though will be sans Ishant, who not only serves his one-match ban in Mohali, but will also race against time to get fit from his hamstring injury he picked up during his Ranji game in Delhi. The selectors may just keep him in the squad expecting that he gets fit.

Even the spin force is awaiting the news on Ashwin’s fitness after the in-form bowler suffered a side strain post bowling just 4.4 overs at Green Park in the first ODI. Bowling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who has bagged 24 wickets in two domestic games for his Ranji team Saurashtra, might just get lucky if Ashwin is not declared fit. Jadeja has always been a handful on Indian conditions. Senior pros Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra are also expected to retain their places.

In the limited-overs though, the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team has seen contrasting fortunes in the first three ODIs against South Africa, but national selectors may still show faith on the current squad for the remaining two matches.