Badrinath's inclusion adds to skipper Dhoni's headache
The Indian middle-order is suddenly looking very different. The assurance of a Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman is not there any more and every Indian cricket fan is feeling a little jittery. There's still Sachin Tendulkar, of course, but with Dravid and Laxman gone, places have opened up. The Indian team management's first duty is to ensure that they find suitable replacements for these two slots before England and Australia arrive.
MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher had Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina to choose from, but now the selection committee has thrown S Badrinath into the ring as well. There were a few raised eyebrows about Badri's inclusion in the 15 in place of Laxman, but the selectors believe he has done enough over the last few seasons to at least get a chance. Rohit Sharma, who was seen a sure-shot replacement, didn't do himself any favours by failing miserably in the ODI series and that opened the slot for Badri.
Chetan Chauhan, former India opener, though, feels Rahane and Pujara are the ones who should be included in the playing XI against New Zealand. "Both these guys have the attitude to play the longer version. But the problem with Rahane is that you have to decide first whether you want to use him as an opener or a middle-order batsman," Chauhan told. Rahane was tried in both the roles in the India A series in West Indies, but he didn't do too well.
"I don't think the Indian team management will read too much into it...They should play Rahane at No 3 while Pujara should come in at 6," Chauhan said. Former India player WV Raman doesn't agree. He feels it's Badrinath who should get his chance. "He was initially seen as a player for the longer version and then he was dropped for not doing too well in the ODIs. I think this is his best chance to cement a place in the Indian side," Raman said.
But for that to happen, Badri has to get a chance in the playing XI. Dhoni has always preferred to go in with Suresh Raina and Raman feels that the UP left-hander "has got his chances in Tests". "Raina started off well, but couldn't carry the momentum forward. Now let's give Badri a chance before it's too late and see how he does in Tests. If he doesn't do well in two games, you always have the opportunity to bring somebody else in," Raman said, adding that Pujara, too, should be used at No 3 slot.
Chauhan, on the other hand, still pines for Rohit. "He is such a classy player and has the gift of timing...It's unfortunate that he failed in Sri Lanka. I hope he does well in domestic cricket and gets back into reckoning soon enough," Chauhan said. Former India stumper and chairman of selectors Kiran More, on the other hand, feels that the four selected in the 15 "are all good enough". "You cannot replace players like Dravid and Laxman.
Badri has finally got his chance. He has a half-century in two Tests that he has played (against SA) and I have every reason to believe that he will make the most of this opportunity," More said.