Opening spot up for grabs

Test team to be named today

 Virender Sehwag has already been ruled out after undergoing shoulder surgery, and his regular opening partner Gautam Gambhir too is set to miss the tour – including the one-day series for which he has been named skipper – after aggravating a shoulder injury during IPL IV.

Murali Vijay, who has done a more than passable job whenever Sehwag or Gambhir has been unavailable, is a near-certain choice, with fellow Tamil Nadu opener Abhinav Mukund, who had a very good domestic season, and Mumbai’s Ajinkya Rahane the front-runners to partner him.

The uncertainty over the status of the injured Cheteshwar Pujara’s knee could pave the way for a Test call-up for the gloriously in-form Virat Kohli, while the toss-up for a seventh specialist batsman could be between Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and S Badrinath if Pujara is ruled unavailable.

The rest of the middle-order selects itself with the experienced triumvirate of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman forced to carry additional responsibility. Tendulkar, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and paceman Zaheer Khan will return for the Tests after being rested for the limited-overs series.

 Wriddhiman Saha was the second stumper in South Africa and should, in all probability, retain that position, though Parthiv Patel could come into the equation because he has prior experience of opening in the longer version.

 The pace department should welcome back Munaf Patel, bowling as well as he ever has and the fittest he has ever been.

While S Sreesanth’s skills as a swing bowler have never been in doubt, he hasn’t endeared himself to the think-tank with his on-field antics. It remains to be seen if he keeps his place or makes way for promising options such as Jaidev Unadkat, Umesh Yadav (who both toured South Africa) or the untested but speedy Varun Aaron.
 Harbhajan Singh and leggie Amit Mishra ought to be the two logical spin options, with left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin too in the mix.

 The first Test will begin at Sabina Park in Kingston on June 20.
 If, as expected, Gambhir misses the one-dayers too, Raina will be entrusted with the captaincy and an additional middle-order batsman could be brought in, pushing Rohit Sharma up to open the batting alongside Patel.

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