There is atleast one vacancy in the middle order of the Indian Test Team.
Their next overseas assignment is arguably their most important in 2013- a test series in South Africa. It will be an ultimate test for the young Indian batsmen and their ability to navigate the most testing waters in world cricket.
16 India A players are currently in South Africa, playing a tri-series against Australia A and South Africa A. This will be followed by a few four-day matches. The A tour is a very useful initiative by the management, sending a team led by Test specialist Pujara- an audition for the upcoming tour in November.
While the bowlers do not have any spots to play for, there are atleast 4 middle order batsmen jostling for 2 tour spots.
Pujara, meanwhile, is India’s first choice at no. 3. Not too long ago, he was one of these hopefuls- until he made his comeback on the A tour to the West Indies, and impressed all for a test recall. Kohli has reached a stage where he is such a surety that he has been rested for an A tour at the age of 24.
If not for Tendulkar, there would be atleast two batting spots in the first team to be filled by these young batsmen.
The bowlers on this A tour consist of Parvez Rasool, Shahbaz Nadeem, Jaydev Unadkat (who has already played a test match in South Africa at age 19), Ishwar Pandey and Siddharth Kaul.
While they would want to impress, they are aware that unless there is a freak injury to one of Ashwin, Jadeja, Ishant, Umesh, B. Kumar or even Mishra, they will not be on that tour squad. Given the injury concerns of Yadav and Ishant, one of the quicks could get lucky at Pretoria.
The batsmen have all to play for once again. The no. 6 spot is vacant, as could be one of the opening spots depending on the form of Murali Vijay in the first test. Vijay’s highest score outside the subcontinent in 8 innings is 45.
Dhawan, Vijay, Rohit, Raina, Rayadu, Karthik, Rahane and Saha are in this A team, taking on the best of the rest of the Australians and South Africans.
Dhawan and Vijay are most likely to open the batting in South Africa- their first times there, a big risk already. It will be a different ballgame than the batter-friendly home conditions they have prospered in so far.
Rohit, Raina, Rahane, Rayadu and Karthik (Tiwary, as usual, is unfortunately injured) will fight for 2 remaining spots in the squad. One of them could make it to the team, depending on how impressive they are in this series.
Rohit has been here before. He was head-to-head with Pujara on that last A tour to the West Indies and even performed well in the first test. He tapered off after that, losing his squad place (that he had gained on the overseas doomed tour to Australia) to Pujara. The rest was history.
The selectors will be keen to try out the new-look cautious Rohit at the top of the test batting order, maybe as an opener, along with Vijay and Dhawan.
Rahane has already had a disappointing Delhi debut, and this will be his second chance to prove his worth. Rayadu recently made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe, and his confidence will be high. Karthik is still trying to find some consistency and will compete directly with Saha – who will remember that he was handed a shock test debut in place of Rohit at Nagpur years in 2009, a move that could have forever altered the destiny of Rohit Sharma.