New Delhi: On the face of it, the task is relatively simple. India did well in the rain-marred one-off Test in Bangladesh and continuity should be the order of the day when the national selectors meet in Delhi on Thursday to pick the squad for the three Test matches in Sri Lanka, starting August 12. Subject to fitness, the committee is likely to name an unchanged side. If the squad strength is increased to 16, Naman Ojha might come in as the reserve wicketkeeper.
At Fatullah last month, India had forged a 283-run opening partnership with Murali Vijay scoring 150 and Shikhar Dhawan going on to make 173. It was Dhawan’s first Test century in 16 months and it gave his career a fresh lease of life. With KL Rahul available, he might not have played the Test. But the young Karnataka opener missed out due to dengue and Dhawan grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Rahul will return for the Sri Lanka tour but he will have to win back his place in the XI. There’s a question mark over Karn Sharma’s fitness though. The leg-spinner was ruled out of the Zimbabwe tour due to a fractured finger in his left hand. He’s said to have recovered sufficiently but his match fitness remains an area of concern. The 27-year-old has had very little game time since IPL. He was left out in the bench against Bangladesh as Virat Kohli decided to go with three fast bowlers even on a very flat deck. Also, there’s a school of thought that against Sri Lanka, someone more experienced like Amit Mishra could be a better candidate. Mishra hasn’t played for India in the longer format since August 2011. Also, he’s 32 years old. But the Haryana leg-spinner has been picked for India ‘A’, which suggests he’s still in the scheme of things. Axar Patel is another contender for the third spinner’s slot. His left-arm spin offers variety. Then again, it would be unfair to Sharma to discard him if he’s fit and available for selection. His Test debut against Australia in Adelaide last winter was a baptism by fire. Sharma is waiting for his next opportunity. Harbhajan Singh was brought back to the fold for the Test match against Bangladesh and the veteran off-spinner bowled well to return with three for 64 in the first innings. He followed it up with a decent performance in Zimbabwe, taking four wickets in three ODIs at an economy rate of 3.66. He’s all set to partner Ravichandran Ashwin again. The latter has been in good form of late. But Sri Lanka in their lair would be a tough challenge. Ravindra Jadeja, dropped on form, is unlikely to be considered. As for fast bowling, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron (suffering from flu) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will make the four-pronged attack. Mohammed Shami is recovering from a knee surgery and won’t be available to tour Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, it is learnt that the selectors might discuss the ODI series loss in Bangladesh on the sidelines of the Test team selection. Fatigue was said to be one of the reasons for the defeat. Top players had opted out of the Zimbabwe tour and are expected to return refreshed.