The England squad has arrived in India for the much anticipated four-test series. They are slated to begin their campaign from Tuesday at the Cricket Club of India’s Brabourne Stadium against an India-A squad which, surprisingly, doesn’t have a single spinner. This move by the selectors has already earned a lot of media attention, and while some have criticized this move, others have found nothing unfair in it.
But amidst all these talks, when the India-A squad faces England in a warm-up game tomorrow, they wouldn’t just be turning up to provide match practice to the England squad. There will a couple of men in the India-A squad who would want to make this opportunity count and permanently seal the coveted number 6 spot in tests for India. The first is Yuvraj Singh, the man who has fought unparalleled odds and became an inspiration to millions. The other is Suresh Raina, one of the most prolific run-scorer for India in the shorter formats of the game. Apart from these two, there are others like Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwari and Abhinav Mukund who would also be vying for the number 6 spot. But unless and until something extraordinary happens, I don’t see them getting into the playing eleven in the first test at Ahmedabad, starting Novemer 15.
Yuvraj marked his return to first-class cricket with a solid double-ton in the Duleep Trophy a couple of weeks ago. The flamboyant southpaw batted with utmost conviction during his marathon innings and now looks in good stead to don India’s test jersey once again. His more-than-decent performances during the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka also showed that he can still perform at the highest level. Add to it his spinning abilities and Kevin Pietersen’s frailties against left-arm spin, Yuvraj can be a big asset for Team India and surely is a better bet than Raina for the first test. The only concern with Yuvraj is whether his body would be able to sustain itself in the grinding 5-day version of test cricket. Also, the fact that he hasn’t had a long outing in the middle against a world-class bowling attack, is a cause of worry.
Suresh Raina, on the other hand, returned to India’s test scheme of things during the two-test series against New Zealand in August-September. Raina, who would be leading the India-A squad against England, still hasn’t been able to cement his spot in India’s test squad. His technical shortcomings against quality fast bowling and his poor shot selection have been the primary reasons for his inconsistent performances in the longer format of the game. Still, his ability to play spin better than Yuvraj can be a deciding factor when the selectors sit to decide the squad for the first test. Also, Raina’s agility in the field is a definite value addition for India.
Batting at number 6 can be a tricky prospect. At times, you are just left with the tail and have to bat around them; a role, which was beautifully managed by VVS Laxman for more than a decade. Then there are occasions where you’ll see yourself come out of bat when the second new ball arrives, or when two quality spinners are bowling in tandem. There’s definitely a lot of skill needed to bat at number 6, and luckily for India, Yuvraj and Raina have enough experience with them to perform at that position.
But all said and done, when the newly appointed selection committee sits to select India’s squad for the four-test on November 5, they would want to keep not just this series, but the future of Indian cricket in their minds while picking the final 15.