India! Abroad Tests! Winning series?
Openers: Well I do agree that at least in the first two Tests, both the openers should be given chances against England. They should not be dropped only on one Test score! Sehwag keeps the score ticking, while Jaffer tries his best to keep a fast clip. Das is a very talented player, unfortunately out of form. But, I still feel genuine openers (including) Das should be given a chance. I hope they perform well and do a good job in that slot.
Middle order: Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly have cemented their places! Laxman? Well at least for the first two Tests maybe, Laxman will get the nod ahead of Kaif as Kaif was not in the original Test team! The management will have to seek a special request to play Kaif! But, I think that Kaif is already good enough to play Tests instead of Laxman! Laxman is a good Test player, no doubt about that! But the problem is that he gives his wicket away after being well set. Running between the wickets is also one of his negative aspects! Though Laxman is a good slip fielder, he is not as good as Kaif, who can save many runs in Tests! For instance, Kaif might as well save about 50 runs from two innings, which is very crucial when a team is facing a total of around 300 to 350 runs. Indians are known for misfielding and dropped catches. Youngsters like Kaif could be one of the solutions to this perennial problem. It may be a difficult decision to bench Laxman, but the Indian team management has done it before to accommodate Sehwag. But the positive points for the inclusion of Laxman are his 167, 285 and vas international experience! Maybe Kaif could be played later on in the Tests or in the future!
Wicket-keeper: Had Dravid played in this role, both Kaif and Laxman or an all- rounder like Bangar could have been played. But Tests and One-dayers are different ball games! But Stewart, Flower and Gilchrist are doing a great job for their respective teams! Though I also think that a specialist wicket-keeper would be better in the longer version of the game, there's no harm in asking Dravid to shoulder the additional burden. Can Ajay Ratra live up to the expectations of a wicket-keeper/ batsman is indeed the moot point. He should score at least 30 runs in a Test match. He has got a Test century, but that is history. Can he perform consistently as a batsman needs to be seen in the future. How about Parthive Patel's batting! I have heard that he will have a good future with the Indian team. But, are we looking at now or the future?
Bowlers: India will have to play with three pace bowlers in England! Those bowlers would be Agarkar, Zaheer Khan and Nehra. Agarkar has the talent to score runs too.
Spin: Harbhajan Singh or Kumble! English batsmen have played Kumble in the one-dayers. But Kumble can be difficult if he is in form! Leaving Harbhajan out is also not an easy decision! The English batsmen have not played him that much! So, why not play him. After all I think that Harbhajan can bat better than Kumble! But, on second thoughts Kumble also has the exposure and experience of playing England. A very hard decision indeed for the team management!
My 11 for the first Test with the bating line up would be: Sehwag, Jaffer, Dravid, Sachin, Ganguly, Laxman, Ratra, Agarkar, Kumble, Zaheer Khan and Nehra.