Lokesh Rahul, who injured his right hamstring while batting in India’s second innings of the Kanpur Test, has been ruled out of the rest of India’s three-Test series v New Zealand 2016, with Gautam Gambhir having been named as his replacement.
Before the start of India v New Zealand 2016 Test series, we knew that KL Rahul will be partnering Murali Vijay, and Rahul and Vijay would possibly remain as India’s openers for the long India home season 2016/17. Shikhar Dhawan did not seem to have a window for returning to India’s Test side anytime soon.
However, one injury and that too to an in-form batsman who is also fast becoming one of the mainstays of India’s batting in the Test format at least, and the whole dynamic has changed: S Dhawan could play in Kolkata and so can Gambhir, who has been picked for the injured KL Rahul. But, which of these two Delhi southpaws will be picked in India’s playing XI for the Kolkata Test v New Zealand?
On that note, here are a couple of related articles you must read:
Gautam Gambhir v Shikhar Dhawan
Rationally speaking, S Dhawan, who was picked in India’s original 15-man squad for the three-Test series v New Zealand, should be ahead of Gambhir in the pecking order. And, if such a consideration is made by the Indian team management, S Dhawan will replace KL Rahul in India’s playing XI for the second Test against the Blackcaps.
Back in 2011—during India’s tour of England, just months after the Men in Blue had won the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011—the Indian team management found themselves in a similar situation, although the present one, we have to say, is a lot better than the one in July-August 2011.
Back then, India’s touring party suffered one injury after another, as pace spearhead Zaheer Khan (hamstring strain), lead spinner Harbhajan Singh (abdominal muscle strain) and Yuvraj Singh (left index finger injury) incurred injuries during the Test series which India went on to lose 0-4 to Andrew Strauss’s men.
RP Singh was named as Zaheer’s replacement in the Indian squad, which already boasted the likes of Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Sreesanth, and Praveen Kumar. Praveen, who had been part of India’s playing XI in the first three Tests of the four-Test series, injured his left ankle on the eve of the Oval Test (fourth of the series) and had to pull himself out just before the start of play.
Now, remember, Munaf Patel was part of India’s original Test squad for the Test series in England. But, did he play? Was he higher in the pecking order than a player who had only come in as a replacement?
No, to both those questions.
Astonishingly, RP Singh played ahead of Munaf and failed to have the desired impact on proceedings. The visitors were already having a really poor series and this team selection decision made no difference to a beleaguered Indian side.
Gambhir had expressed disappointment when he was not picked in the original Indian 15-man squad for the home Test series v New Zealand, but also vowed to fight, through his Twitter account, as he wrote: “I’m disappointed but not defeated; I’m cornered but not a coward. Grit my partner, courage my pride…for, I must fight, I must fight…”.
However, Gautam Gambhir must be feeling confident as a batsman, having accrued 356 runs in five innings for India Blue, a team he led to the Duleep Trophy 2016 title. And, if Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble select the team for the second Test on the basis of current form, then the 34-year-old Delhi left-hander will play in Kolkata ahead of his state teammate S Dhawan, who played the first three Tests during India’s tour of West Indies 2016 and in the Duleep Trophy 2016 Final, for India Red against India Blue.
Gautam Gambhir is also a better player of spin than S Dhawan, who, despite not having any major technical issues against spinners, does not look at home. Gambhir, on the other hand, loves batting against spinners and used to play Muttiah Muralitharan with a great deal of efficiency, especially in 50-over cricket. Could this be the deciding factor in Gambhir replacing KL Rahul in India’s playing XI for the Kolkata Test? Possibly.
I still think S Dhawan, who has at least been a part of the Indian Test and ODI squads over the last two years, will replace KL Rahul and partner M Vijay in the Indian playing XI for the Kolkata Test, which begins this Friday.
Gautam Gambhir, even with runs behind him in Duleep Trophy 2016, is making a comeback to the Indian Test side which has undergone a major transformation from the time he last played in August 2014, and that could work in S Dhawan’s favour, having been a regular feature in the Indian dressing room.
However, if S Dhawan does not return to India’s playing XI, he will probably get the message that the team management has lost faith in him and the other players too, if and when they get dropped in the future, will feel dejected and question the team management’s faith and confidence in them. So, the team management has a tricky selection decision to make.
India’s Playing XI for Kolkata Test (likely): Kohli (C), Vijay, S Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, and Umesh Yadav.