From this rather forthright set of statements by captain Rahul Dravid, it appears as if Team India’s playing XI for the first Test against England (at Lord’s from July 19 to 23) has been virtually decided.
Rahul Dravid indicated that he was expecting big things from V. V. S. Laxman and appears to have given the stylish middle-order batsman the all-clear to play in the starting XI.
We can connect the dots between the following two statements and surmise that Laxman will play.
“I back Laxman to have a big tour this time. The last time he didn’t have as great a tour as the other guys. I can see that he’s determined to correct it this time. He looks hungry.”
“I know my best top order. I’m pretty clear about the top six going into the first Test match. In the next game (against England ‘A’) we will be playing our top six batsmen.”
Any lingering doubts may have been sealed by the sparkling 95 that Laxman scored in India’s tour opener against Sussex.
Given Dinesh Karthik’s impressive outing and given the fact that Jaffer scored a century in his last outing — albeit against Bangladesh — I don’t believe the opening combination will be tampered with. So, we can expect a top-six of: Karthik, Jaffer, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman.
The only question would be if India will play five bowlers or M. S. Dhoni and four bowlers.
Here again, Dravid puts paid to any speculation on the matter with yet another forthright comment. That the team expects to play both Karthik and Dhoni and four bowlers is sealed in the following two comments:
“We will probably go in with four bowlers. Depending upon the weather and the pitch we will have to decide whether it’s two spinners and two fast bowlers, or three pacers and a spinner.”
“Dhoni is coming here for the first time and the people here will be seeing him for the first time. Dinesh Karthik too has been very impressive in his short career. Had a lot of success in South Africa. We will be expecting both of them to deliver the goods.”
Given this scenario, we can expect that the only selection conundrum would be whether India plays two pacers and two spinners (unlikely) and if they play three pace-men, who these will be. Although most scribes are pointing to Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh as the combination, I’d like to see them play Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan and Ranadeb Bose.
So, my team for the First Test would be:
Karthik, Jaffer, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman, Dhoni, Kumble, Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan, Ranadeb Bose.