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New Zealand's tour of India may not be the most exciting prospect on paper this Monsoon season, but it does offer the hosts an opportunity to identify possible replacements for legendary batsman Rahul Dravid, who hung up his boots earlier this year after plundering an amazing 13288 runs with the bulk of those coming in the no.3 slot for India.
While the bulk of India's batting unit picks itself in Test cricket, the selectors are mindful of the need to introduce some youth to the set-up after India's debacle in England earlier this year. Home confines give the perfect opportunity to breed confidence in youngsters, and it comes as no surprise that Cheteshwar Pujara has been called up to the national Test squad. Joining Pujara is newcomer Ajinkya Rahane, who will in all likelihood remain with the team as the benched reserve opener, and Suresh Raina, who while exceptional in the shorter format of the game, has yet to really get a hang of the man's game.
There are hence two scenarios for India's batting set-up. The selectors can either thrust Pujara into Dravid's vacated no.3 spot and see how he goes or they can bump young Virat Kohli, who is in exceptional form back to the spot where he plays for the one day team and use Pujara or Raina lower down the order at no.6.
The choices made for the bowling unit are also exciting with Zaheer Khan the only natural selection. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav have both been called up, with the former returning after a lengthy injury lay-off. It will be interesting to see which of them gets the nod to partner Zaheer considering there is little point playing three seamers in Indian conditions.
The spinning options are also interesting with Piyush Chawla a surprise selection alongside R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. Harbhajan Singh, who received a surprise call up for the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka today, continues to be ignored for the longest format of the game.
Team: M.S. Dhoni (c), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, R. Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane, Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, Suresh Raina
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