While Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan were also in contention, it’s Navdeep Saini who has got the nod for the Sydney Test, starting today.
This is not surprising.
Saini was the first choice in the first place and both Shardul Thakur and Natarajan came in as replacements for Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav.
Many former cricketers have supported this move.
One of the most vocal in his support has been former India left arm pacer, Ashish Nehra.
“If Saini was ahead of them during initial Test squad selection, I don’t see any reason why he would slip down in the pecking order. You selected him first, so obviously you believed he was better than other two. Isn’t it,” said Nehra.
It’s also true that Saini suffered a bout of indifferent form in the two white-ball games and then had a niggle.
But there a few telling factors that are in Saini’s favour.
His biggest assets are bounce and extra pace. In a test match, this really matters.
The India test cap has to be earned. A great IPL season isn’t enough justification to reward someone with a rest cap.
While Natarajan is a good prospect, he hasn’t been tested in the long format yet, unlike Mohammad Siraj who has risen through the ranks.
In contrast, Saini has gone through the grind having been on multiple red ball tours of India A.
Nehra also made one more key point. “In Test matches, batsmen normally don’t get out. You have to get them out. That’s the difference.”
“The white-ball games that were held in Sydney indicated that the deck was a flat one and express pace comes in handy on such surfaces.”
What’s more, when the kookaburra seam flattens out after some time, a bowler with extra pace can also generate a bit of reverse swing, which again is a point in Saini’s favour.
Finally, the Aussies aren’t great at playing short-pitched bowling.
They don’t have batsmen of the calibre of Ponting or Langer or Hayden who were adept at negotiating the short ball.
And let’s face it. Saini is capable of generating mean bounce, unlike Thakur of Natarajan.
Saini can bowl long spells at 140 kmph which coupled with accuracy can pose problems to the Aussie line up.
Natarajan shouldn’t lose heart though.
He is a quick learner and should leverage the confidence earned from his T20 and ODI experience to get better with time.