The clean sweep in the T20 series against Australia has lessened their dilemmas but selectors will debate whether new find Manish Pandey is better-suited than Ajinkya Rahane for the number seven spot when they name the Indian squads for the World T20 and the Asia Cup, on Friday.
While most of the players select themselves after the triumphant show Down Under, there is only one selection puzzle — that of the seventh specialist batsman. India’s No 1 batsman Virat Kohli has been rested against Sri Lanka with in-form Manish Pandey getting a look-in for the upcoming home series against Sri Lanka.
But when Kohli rejoins the squad for the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, at least one among the 15 selected for Lanka series will get the axe from the big-ticket event that is to follow in March-April. Since the team for World T20 is being selected on Friday, it will be unfair to drop Pandey without even having a look at him during the Lanka series that starts February 9 in Pune.
With Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni being automatic choices, the spotlight will certainly be on Rahane.
While there is no doubt about Rahane’s class, his ability to manoeuvre the singles and doubles in shorter formats has been questioned by none other Dhoni. He didn’t figure in the playing XI for the three T20 Internationals in Australia which is an indication that he is not in team management’s larger scheme of things.
Yuvraj’s last over heroics in the third T20 against Australia have ensured his place in the team. Also, the 15 wickets he took during the 2011 World Cup with his slow-left arm spin will also be taken into account. As Dhoni said after the end of the T20 series, the core of team is more or less set, there could only be minor changes in the squad of 15.
The only player, who could come into the mix is Irfan Pathan, who had a good Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament, leading Baroda to the finals. He can be a cover with his left-arm seam bowling for the injury-prone Ashish Nehra. However, the selectors have not included him for the Sri Lanka series so there remains a question whether they would straightaway take him in the Asia Cup and World T20 squads with Hardik Pandya impressing the senior boys in the team.