New Delhi, Sept 27: India may again find themselves fielding a depleted squad against England, with sources suggesting many key players are either unavailable or doubtful for the five-match one-day series against England starting from October 14.
For starters, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh are certain to miss out. There is also a question mark over Virender Sehwag's availability since he is yet to fully recover from his shoulder injury. Middle-order batsman Rohit Sharma's fitness too is touch-and-go and he may not be available before the 3rd ODI.
Tendulkar, who missed the ODI series in England due to a toe injury, has still not recovered while Yuvraj, who fractured his index finger on the tour, also has a ligament tear on his finger which will take some more time to heal.
Sehwag has started batting but throwing the ball is still a problem. He is undergoing treatment and making regular trips to the National Cricket Academy (NCA). The team management feels there is no need to rush him "till he is 100% fit". Whether Sehwag will be picked for the England series or make a comeback for the West Indies tour at home has not been decided yet.
This means a full-fledged England team will take on an India squad brimming with youngsters. When the selectors meet on September 29, names like Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary will come up for discussion. If Sehwag misses out, Parthiv Patel will open the innings with Gautam Gambhir. MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli will comprise the middle-order and Ravindra Jadeja may fill in as the all-rounder.
On the bowling front, the selectors are likely to go for three spinners and four medium pacers. Jadeja is one of the spinners while off-break bowler R Ashwin is a sure selection. The only bone of contention is the selection of Harbhajan Singh, who has an impeccable record at home and has recovered from a pulled stomach muscle. The team management wants Harbhajan back but whether he will eventually be picked remains to be seen. Bhajji is also facing stiff competition from the likes of Pragyan Ojha.
As reported by TOI on Monday, the pace department still remains a worry. As of now, only Praveen Kumar is a certainty while new faces like Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav may get the nod. The Indian team management may also suggest that Ashish Nehra be picked in the absence of Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel.
"There is need to groom youngsters at home and this is the right series for them," said a source.