The BCCI selectors reward the good Ranji Trophy show of Jadeja and Awana while showing the door to nonperforming stalwarts.
It took eight ignominious overseas defeats and an English jolt at home to wake up the BCCI. But credit to Sandeep Patil & Co who didn't sweep things under the carpet and cracked the whip on those resting on past laurels.
Leaving out Zaheer Khan is as big a statement the BCCI selectors could have made while announcing the Test squad for Nagpur. Credit to the selectors for using the term 'dropped' and not 'rested', a word petted by some of their predecessors. Same for the team's Singhs, who are no more the kings, at least for the moment. If dropping Zaheer is a statement, showing the door to Yuvraj and Harbhajan a signal that there's no more scope to wait and watch.
The squad needed some freshness about it, which could've come only from the Ranji Trophy performers. On those grounds, it was difficult to overlook the heroics of Saurashtra's Ravindra Jadeja and Delhi's Parvinder Awana. Jadeja has been picked as a mirror image of Yuvraj Singh at No. 6 and Awana has replaced the ageing legs of Zaheer.
Jadeja, never looked upon as a Test prospect, has belled the cat this season. The selectors had to reward the only Indian to score three triple centuries in the Ranji Trophy, two of which have come in the current season, along with a fifty and 20 wickets in just five matches. With 726 runs under his belt at an average of 121, the season's top run-scorer has literally walked into the Nagpur Test and should bat at No.6.
Jadeja has played 58 ODIs and 12 Twenty20 internationals, but this will be the biggest 'Test' yet for the 24-year-old allrounder who has the form to deliver right away.
Delhi pacer Awana too has been on the prowl this season. With 21 wickets in five games, including two five-wicket hauls, Awana is among the top 10 wicket-takers in Ranji Trophy. Fair to say, Umesh Yadav's injury made the passage of Awana's entry wider than it appeared. He brings with him the 140kmph pace India have missed since Yadav got injured after the Ahmedabad Test. But more importantly, he brings with him a wicket-taking form to help India save face in Nagpur. But he is in direct competition with Ashok Dinda for a place in the XI. However, since Zaheer is out and Ishant Sharma came up with a pedestrian show in Kolkata, it won't be a surprise if India play a new-look pace attack of Dinda and Awana.
The only questionable selection, slightly so, could be of legspinner Piyush Chawla – not because he has been selected, but because he has been selected ahead of Amit Mishra. The Haryana legspinner has taken 14 wickets at 22.28 this season, compared to Chawla’s nine at 48.33. If selectors ignored those numbers, they must have taken into account Chawla's good show against the Englishmen in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. Otherwise, Chawla's Test record – three wickets in two Tests, the last of which was four years back in 2008 – doesn't exude much confidence for a recall.
Some have also pointed fingers at Ishant's retention, but at 24 he has time to learn and that can be done only if he remains part of the squad – though he needs to make his learning curve a lot more steeper than it's current bow-like shape.
The selectors also awarded Awana with a Twenty20 call-up, while recalling Jadeja and retaining Chawla. But Zaheer's name wasn't in that list either, along with the surprise omission of Virender Sehwag. A BCCI release later labelled Sehwag and Zaheer as 'unavailable' for the T20s. But what wasn't clear was whether they asked for rest or not to be considered for T20s.
As far as the touchy subject of Tendulkar is concerned, it's best to round it off with cricket expert and commentator Harsha Bhogle's tweet. "My reading is that the selectors will talk to tendulkar post nagpur."