Focus on Gambhir as India 'A' take on Australians

Focus on Gambhir as India 'A' take on Australians

Visitors chance for final touch-up

Focus on Gambhir as India 'A' take on Australians

Axed from the Test team after a prolonged form slump, India ‘A’ skipper Gautam Gambhir will have a point to prove when he leads out the side in a three-day warm-up cricket match against the Australians starting on Saturday.

The left-handed opener, who hasn’t scored a Test century for three years now, was dropped from the squad for the four-Test series against Australia starting on February 22.

Replaced by Shikhar Dhawan, who was originally named the ‘A’ squad skipper, Gambhir found himself demoted to the role -- ironical for a player who was once seen as captaincy material for the senior national squad.

He would still be biggest star in the India ‘A’ line-up which will square off against the full-strength Australians, who didn’t do too badly in their opening practice game against the Board President’s XI.

Most of their top players, including skipper Michael Clarke, had not set foot in the country at that time as they were busy wrapping up the home limited-overs series against the West Indies.

The two-day match, which was also played here, ended in a draw with the Aussie batsmen getting a feel of the trying conditions that await them. Their bowlers, on the other hand, managed to get some confidence after coming good on a turning track, which was expected to challenge them quite a bit.

Strong batting

The India ‘A’s batting will depend on some known faces such as Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary and Ajinkya Rahane. There are some new faces in the squad as well, including Jiwanjot Singh, who has scored 995 runs in 10 first-class matches.

Abhishek Nayar -- the second-highest run-scorer in the Ranji Trophy this season with 966 runs for Mumbai, including three centuries and eight fifties -- will also look to make his mark.

Nayar also picked up 19 wickets to play an important role in Mumbai’s 40th Ranji Trophy title triumph. He was interestingly a top buy at the IPL players’ auction, picked up by Pune Warriors for a whopping Rs 3.5 crore.

The Aussies, meanwhile, would want Clarke, who is nursing a strained right hamstring, to be fit for the game and get some match practice ahead of the Test series.

“In my mind, cricket-wise, I feel like I need that game to spend some time in the middle in Indian conditions both batting and bowling, but also with my captaincy as well because India is such a different place to Australia. But I’ll listen to the expert and see what he has to say,” Clarke had stated before leaving for India.

But as it turned out Clarke and opener David Warner wouldn’t be playing the match. Also looking for some practice would be star all-rounder Shane Watson, playing solely as a batsman.

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