India drop Gambhir

India announced a 15-man squad for the first two Tests against Australia, apparently taking a leaf out of the tourists Ashes-preparation manual. The notable feature in it though is that Gautam Gambhir has been dropped and will play for India A instead. It’s not too surprising when one considers Gambhir’s overall form; he has not scored a Test century in over three years and even that was against Bangladesh. (Though he had hit two in three innings in Sri Lanka two months prior to that.)

But recently Gambhir has actually fared okay; he was the lone resistance against England in the second innings at Mumbai and went past fifty in the first innings at Calcutta as well. He finished the series with the second highest average of all India’s specialist batsmen, behind only Cheteshwar Pujara. Whilst that alone would not generally be enough to stay the axe, it is a bit surprising in the context of India’s general woes that it should be Gambhir who was dropped ahead of another. In particular, Virender Sehwag has been just as out of form and arguably looked worse against England. Sehwag has morphed into the very definition of a flat-track bully and has no answer to even slightly above average bowling. That doesn’t mean he won’t get runs at home against Australia, their bowling is so mercurial anything could happen, but of the two Indian openers he certainly looks less likely to make a recovery than Gambhir. And that’s just looking at the openers and saying nothing about a certain SR Tendulkar…

The other aspect of note in the squad is that Harbhajan Singh has been recalled as a third spinner, further underlining the lack of depth India have in the bowling at the moment. India tried many different options against England, including four in the Nagpur Test, and they had very little success as a group, even over the entire series. After looking at all those other options, the fact that Singh is still considered to be the third best spinner in India is quite damming. That said, Australia believe their second best spinner to be Xavier Doherty. For a series in India, the lack of quality spin options on both sides is very interesting; we might be in for some high-scoring matches.

This series may be the start of India’s rebuilding and dropping an underperforming batsman is certainly a step forward. But the Indian selectors have made a soft choice as to which batsman and the squad as a whole still leaves a lot to be desired. The series starts in under a fortnight and I suspect that if India don’t make some difficult decisions before then they will find themselves under a lot of pressure to do so shortly thereafter.

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