Instant hit in his first domestic season
One man's loss is another man's gain. Abhimanyu Mithun and Wriddhiman Saha must be thanking their stars after making it to the 15-man squad for the first Test against South Africa, beginning in Nagpur on February 6.
Both were called up only because some of India's leading players were rendered hors de combat due to injuries following the meaningless two-Test series in Bangladesh.
Mithun certainly merits a place in the squad. It was not surprising that he was chosen ahead of the experienced Ashish Nehra, R P Singh, Irfan Pathan or Munaf Patel.
The 20-year-old pace bowler was an instant hit in his first domestic season. Playing for Karnataka, he started off with 11 wickets in his first match, which included a hat-trick against Uttar Pradesh. In fact, he was instrumental in Karnataka finishing runners-up in the Ranji Trophy, claiming 47 wickets in nine matches, at an average of 23.23.
Chairman of selectors Srikkanth confessed that there was no looking beyond Mithun when it came to finding a replacement for the injured S Sreesanth for the first Test.
"Mithun has done extremely well in the domestic season this season and we needed a fast bowler for the Test series, so we picked him," he said.
Image: Abhimanyu Mithun
Photographs: Harish Kotian
Saha to provide cover for Dhoni
While many gave the thumbs up to Mithun's selection, Bengal wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha's inclusion raised eyebrows.
Srikkanth pointed out that since India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is struggling with niggles in his back, there is a high possibility that he could miss the Nagpur Test.
"Dhoni had a few niggles during the Bangladesh tour and had even missed the first Test, so we have included Wriddhiman Saha as back-up. If on the morning of the match Dhoni is unavailable, we will have Saha as a replacement," he said.
Dinesh Karthik has always been considered the second choice wicketkeeper after Dhoni for the last couple of seasons, but suddenly the selectors seem to have lost patience with the Tamil Nadu keeper-batsman. But with experienced players like Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh missing out because of injuries, it would have been logical to have retained Karthik, simply for his experience of playing at the highest level.
Karthik, 24, has given a good account of himself both behind the wickets and with the bat, scorinbg 1000 runs in 23 Tests at an average of 27, including a century and seven fifties.
Saha has played 24 first class games for Bengal, scoring 1256 runs at an average of 35.88, inclusive of three centuries and five half-centuries. This sesaon he made important contributions with the bat, scoring 318 runs in five matches at 39.75, including a century and a fifty.
Image: Wriddhiman Saha
Consistency won him a Test berth
Subramaniam Badrinath has been a Test prospect for the last few years now. The right-hander was consistently among the leading run-getters in domestic circuit but found it difficult to break into a Test squad packed with top class batsmen.
His consistency can be gauged from the runs he scored in the last few seasons: 636 in 2005-06, 436 in 2006-07, 659 in 2007-08, 426 in 2008-09 and 599 in 2009-10.
With Yuvraj and Dravid ruled out, it looks certain that he'll be drafted into the team for the first Test in Nagpur. He has already played three ODIs, but not been able to make a mark, with only 39 runs, at 19.50, against his name. But that could be because he got to bat only in the last few overs.
Nevertheless, he has all the makings of a top Test batsman. With a perfect technique and required patience, there is no doubt that, if given the chance, he could stake claim for a permanent place in the middle order.
South Africa are a good all-round side. While they must be licking their lips in anticipation of taking on a depleted Indian squad at home, they also have the extra motivation of taking over the top spot in the ICC Test rankings if they win the upcoming two-Test series.
Thus, Mithun and Saha, if they get their chances, face a tough test of character. Both very well know that a good showing in the coming weeks will ensure them a long reign in Team India.
Image: Subramaniam Badrinath