India captain MS Dhoni. (AP Photo)
A few eyebrows were raised on Sunday when India skipper MS Dhoni named Gautam Gambhir as the team's third opener while addressing the media ahead of the team's departure for the upcoming tour of South Africa.
India picked only two regular openers - Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay - for the two-Test series, which will be preceded by the three-match ODI series. When reporters asked Dhoni about the third specialist opener, Dhoni dropped a bomb by naming Gambhir, who is not part of the 17-member squad.
"If you see, Gautam is definitely our third opener that we are considering. As of now, Vijay and Shikhar, they have done really well for us. So third opener as of now is Gautam."
After realising he might have made a goof-up, Dhoni quickly clarified his statement, saying he was looking at the bigger picture - possibly the upcoming year in which India will tour New Zealand, England and Australia. "I know [Gambhir is not in the team], but he is the third opener. He never asked if he is part of the team," Dhoni clarified.
Nevertheless, Dhoni's statement has made one thing clear that Gambhir is still very much in the scheme of things as far as the Indian Test side is concerned.
Dhoni also made it clear that there was no decision yet on who would take the vacant No. 4 spot in Tests, following the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. "We are not decided on number 4. No one is going to replace anyone else," he said before adding in lighter vein, "If possible. we will omit number 4 and try to bat 1, 2, 3, 5, 6...and 12."
India's tour kicks off with the ODI series that begins December 5.