And by every yardstick the team picked for the first Test of the West Indies series is an important one. It is after almost a year since South Africa in December 2010 that Indias premier batsmen are all back to playing Test match cricket. The English nightmare beyond them, all of them are finally fit and will hopefully continue to be so for the next three months up until the end of the Australia series. When all the top guns are fit and firing, the Indian batting line up has a menacing look to it. Sehwag and Gambhir upfront can blow any attack away and Dravid has rediscovered the touch that made him The Wall.
Tendulkar and Laxman need to fire and get into the groove before Australia and should relish batting in home conditions. With Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli fighting for the number six spot, a problem since Gangulys retirement, it is of great interest to see who finally gets the nod. With Singh as the first choice, whoever makes the team will get a couple of chances before the other sneaks in. And with the two being the best of friends this rivalry will only help Indian cricket go forward.
The bowling, however, continues to be a concern. While Praveen Kumar has been outstanding neither Ishant nor Sreesanth were good enough in England. It is great that the selectors have included both Yadav and Aaron for the series against the West Indies. We all remember what young Ishant Sharma did in Australia in 2007-8 and we need the pace of Yadav or Aaron Down Under. Kumar has been given a much needed rest because he is now the leader of the attack in the absence of Khan in all formats of the game.
The dropping of Harbhajan Singh is an interesting one. Ashwin Kumar, to be fair to him, deserves the opportunity. But Singh doesnt deserve to be left out either. If Kumar fails to deliver against the West Indies, Bhajji will have little time to get back to the groove before playing in the all important Boxing Day Test. If they are the two best bets why not give both of them an opportunity, a mistake India continually made when both Prasanna and Venkatraghvan were available to play.
Sooner or later, Harbhajan Singh has to be brought back and the sooner it is, the better it is for India. He was and still remains a match winner and a hungry Bhajji has much to offer Indian cricket for the next three to four years.
The other important issue is resting the captain. It is important that Dhoni plays the Tests and takes a break in the one day series against the West Indies. While there is a lot at stake in the Test matches, the one day series is a no brainer. India has nothing to prove and the youngsters are more than capable of doing the job in the absence of their talisman. We need a fit and firing Dhoni in Australia and a two-week break at the end of November will do the captain a world of good.
The inclusion of Rahul Sharma means the selectors are finally trying to look beyond Amit Mishra. Sharma, now included, deserves a fair run and his inclusion is just because Mishra has squandered the many opportunities that came his way. His 80-plus at the Oval notwithstanding, his bowling hasnt been much to write home about.
Overall it has been an interesting selection. The high point is the inclusion of the two real quicks, Yadav and Aaron. While Aaron, Sharma, Rahane and Kohli are expected to sit out at the Kotla, it wouldnt be a surprise to see a couple of changes ahead of the Eden test if some of the men selected at the Kotla dont perform to expectations.
The writer is a sports historian