THE WRITING may be on the wall as far as Shikhar Dhawan’s Test career is concerned. The Indian Express has learnt from sources close to the selection committee that the 32-year-old is set to be dropped for the Tests against the West Indies with prolific Karnataka opener Mayank Agarwal likely to get a maiden call-up. Dhawan’s place for the longer format was anyway in doubt following his untoward returns in England and it now looks certain that he’ll finally get the axe despite his exploits in the Asia Cup.
The selection committee was originally scheduled to pick the squad for the two-match series on Wednesday but it’s learnt that they have decided to postpone the meeting by a few days for now. The reason for the delay is that MSK Prasad & Co are waiting on the reports for Ishant Sharma and R Ashwin, who will undergo fitness tests on Sunday, before taking a call. Ashwin had suffered from a hip injury during the third Test in England while Ishant left the field during England’s second innings in the final Test after experiencing some pain in his left ankle.
According to the official notice for the meeting, which was signed by acting BCCI secretary Amitabh Choudhary and accessed by this paper, the five selectors were scheduled to meet in New Delhi on Wednesday morning. The main “agenda” for the on the notice read, “to select the team for two match Test series against West Indies — 1st Test at Rajkot from 4th October, 2nd test at Hyderabad from 12th October 2018.”
The delay will also give the selectors a chance to take a look at, and perhaps a call on, some of the players who will feature in the Board President’s XI for the two-day warm-up match against the visitors in Baroda, starting Saturday. The BPXI squad includes the likes of Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw in addition to India’s latest Test debutant, Hanuma Vihari.
It’ll be a great opportunity for Agarwal to once again prove his worth following the incredible glut of runs he’s scored across all formats over the last 10 months or so. The right-hander has been among the runs again in the Vijay Hazare Trophy — even if not to the gargantuan levels which he’s managed of late. His recent highlights against the red-ball include a 220 against South Africa A at Alur in early August and scores of 47 and 80 against Australia A at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Shaw will be the front-runner in Dhawan’s absence to walk out with KL Rahul to open the innings in Rajkot next week. And the two-day contest against the Jason Holder-led team from the Caribbean could well be a dress rehearsal of sorts for the Mumbai teenager. It also remains to be seen whether that could also potentially be it for Murali Vijay, who’s presently hit some form in county cricket, for now anyway, Dhawan’s longstanding ODI and T20I opening partner Rohit Sharma too is learnt to not be in line for a Test recall anytime soon.
The Mumbai batsman, who’s presently leading the Indian team at the Asia Cup, was left out of the Test touring party to England and his longest-format career is likely to remain on hold. He last played a Test at Centurion in January and has been sidelined ever since.
Karun Nair, who watched the entire Test series in England from the bench and saw Vihari get the nod ahead of him, will lead the Board President’s XI and will possibly now want to remind the selectors of why he’s continued to remain in the reckoning.
While the results of Ishant’s fitness test might not have too much of an impact on the selectors, it’ll be interesting to see who they go for in case Ashwin isn’t cleared to be selected for the two Tests.
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