For nearly half a decade, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were unchallenged as India's opening pair. In that time, they averaged 52 an innings and raised 11 century partnerships. There would have been no 20-month spell as the No 1-ranked Test side without them.
Gambhir was dropped before the Australia series, while Sehwag's 11-year-run with the side ended two Tests in. In their absence, both Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan made big hundreds to put themselves in pole position for the tour of South Africa later this year.
With Dhawan picking up a hand injury after his century on debut in Mohali, Gambhir was recalled to the squad for the Delhi Test. Unfortunately, a bout of jaundice killed any chance of a comeback.
His recall, and subsequent replacement in Suresh Raina, a mid-order batsman who has never opened in Tests, defines the opening-slot confusion. It will discourage openers that have done well at the domestic level, like Punjab's Jiwanjot Singh, who scored five hundreds in his debut season.
Wasim Jaffer had a superb season for Mumbai, but is considered too old at 35, while Abhinav Mukund was jettisoned after two appearances in 2011. Dinesh Karthik, his Tamil Nadu teammate, averaged 41 in 10 Tests as opener.
By picking Raina, who averages 28 and has just one hundred in 17 Tests, the selection panel has gone against the forward-thinking philosophy that has typified several of its decisions so far. Facing a rough South Africa tour, it is an opportunity missed.
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