The selectors have followed a most welcome progressive policy in picking the Indian team for the first Test against West Indies next month. One of the foremost approaches that any such committee must have is to look ahead and plan for the future. Selection committee chairman Kris Srikkanth has made it clear that the team has been named with this in mind.
No individual is greater than the game and no player should take his place in the side for granted. Harbhajan Singh is a great bowler who has some outstanding feats against his name. But there is little doubt that in recent times he has lost the zing that marked his bowling for so long. This is clearly reflected in his figures. Hopefully the listlessness is just a passing phase and he will fight his way back to the Indian team.
One is sure he still has much to contribute. But even the greatest of players go through a lean phase and that is what the 31-year-old off spinner has been enduring for some time now. One recalls how a few years ago Virender Sehwag found runs hard to come by and his Test average slid from almost 56 to 49. He was dropped, fought his way back into the side and ere long resumed his swashbuckling deeds - including a second triple hundred.
In much the same manner, one can only that the rest will do Harbhajan some good. He should take it philosophically - perhaps even have a chat with Sehwag - go back to the drawing board and get his rhythm back. He is an extremely competitive cricketer and no doubt has a burning desire to be in the spotlight again. That is the first step towards a comeback but at the moment it is best that he remains on the sidelines.
Harbhajan's loss is Ravichandran Ashwin's gain and there is hardly anyone who will disagree with the view that on form and potential, the Tamil Nadu off spinner is deserving of a place as the No 1 spin bowler. I have believed for long that Ashwin has the qualities to succeed Harbhajan as the Indian team's premier spinner not just in ODIs but also in Tests. He is a bowler who loves challenges and under the circumstances one can already see Ashwin rise to the occasion at the Feroz Shah Kotla next month.
I am also pleased with the inclusion of Rahul Sharma, having always held the view that he is a blue chip investment for the future. Whether he plays in the Test or not, the fact that he is being considered for top honours should encourage the tall leg spinner.
Here, the selectors have done their homework admirably. West Indian batsmen have always been vulnerable against top class leg spin bowling as the records of Subhash Gupte and BS Chandrasekhar, Anil Kumble and Narendra Hirwani will confirm. Rahul is certainly a bowler who deserves all encouragement.
Dhoni's lack of confidence in Aaron is baffling
Even in the case of the fast bowling department, the selectors have showed remarkable foresight. Again, they have not looked back but forward as the selection of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron will illustrate. The two have shown considerable promise in hurtling down the deliveries at a disconcerting pace and that is an admirable trait to have in talented young bowlers.
I have always believed that the rest of the arsenal in a fast bowler's armoury will fall into place with experience. They should get the chances first and now that they have got it, one is sure that Yadav and Aaron will not squander it away.
Ajinkya Rahane getting the nod over Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund for the third opener's slot is a welcome move. He is immensely gifted, has the game to excel in all formats of the game and is the in-form player. The choice of the extra batsman in the middle order was clearly a toss up between Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli and the right hander probably edged out the left hander on the grounds that Raina has got enough chances to prove himself - and not exactly succeeded at the Test level - while Kohli has not.
The return of Ishant Sharma is welcome as is the return of the batting superstars. With Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni around, the batting has the customary formidable look and one can already predict long, hard days in the field for the West Indians.