CHENNAI: Following India’s unexpected performance in two Tests, national selectors are keen to strengthen the side when they meet after the match in Bengaluru to pick the squad for the last two.
Rohit Sharma and Mohammed Shami, the two who returned from injury and took part in Vijay Hazare Trophy national one-day matches in Chennai to prove fitness, are strong contenders.
“Rohit and Shami seem to have recovered from injuries. They didn’t look uncomfortable or complain about anything on the field. They will be in contention for selection for the next two Tests against Australia,” said sources around the selection committee.
Rohit did not make runs for Mumbai in two matches and Shami too failed to take a wicket for Bengal against Gujarat on Monday. “Stats are important, but we give more weightage to ability. Both are match winners, with proven ability,” sources added. Also, there are indications that Abhinav Mukund will not be dropped from the squad after failing in both innings in the second Test in Bengaluru.
The fast bowler was happy to bowl after the third Test against England last November. “It felt good. There was a bit of tightness, but as the match progressed I enjoyed bowling. I was trying to slowly catch my rhythm and bowl at my best,” said Shami.
After knee surgery, is his body fit enough to take the load? “There’s a difference between bowling in the nets and in a match. Overall, it has been comfortable. I’m keen to play club games and get my rhythm going,” said Shami.
Bowlers sometimes sacrifice pace for accuracy after injury. “I don’t want to sacrifice pace. My strength is pace and swing,” said the UP-born pacer .
The Australia series has caused debates over the ideal nature of pitch, with suggestions that something for batsmen and bowlers should be prepared rather than turners or seamer-friendly tracks. “We should be prepared to bowl on any surface. Our job is to take wickets. We should work as a unit. For example, if the track is spin friendly, then pacers should not leak runs,” said Shami.
Indians are good players of spin but suddenly, they seem to have lost their bearings against Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe. Shami said it’s a temporary phase. “We are good players of spin and let’s not forget we were undefeated in 19 matches. It’s just hard luck and we’ll do well.”
Shami refused to read too much into Virat Kohli’s failure. “It’s not fair to judge Virat by two games and say he’s out of form. His dismissals are not due to pressure, but because of judgment error.”
Noted bowling coach TA Sekhar, mentor of the Bengal pacers, felt Shami looked alright. “He didn’t look that rusty. If picked for the remaining two Tests, he can deliver.”