After King Khan, P Chidambaram, Dr MMS, Bal T and the PCB providing comic relief, the serious business is about to begin. A real Test series. Never mind even if it is a two match shoot-out, we will take whatever scraps Emperor Modi deigns to bestow us with.
While injuries to Dravid and Yuvraj have added the extra dimension to the contest, there is still time to go before that.
To me, the tour match - SA vs BPXI is of much interest. The squad picked is a decidedly young one and there are a few interesting names.
If Yuvraj, Vijay and Badri are ahead of him in the Test scheme of things, Ajinkya Rahane need not fret. He is young and has ample time on his side. Unlike Raina/Rohit/Kohli he is unlikely to be rushed into the LOI teams and then consigned to the scrap heap and that is not a bad thing in itself. Ask Rohit. This outing against the best bowling attack in the world will show where Rahane stands as a prospect when the greats leave.
Touted by Ian Chappel as the next best thing in the Indian middle order, the captain for this game, Rohit Sharma, impressed many (including this sometimes blogger) with his effortless strokeplay. Two years since, he has hit a roadblock and has only himself to blame. The ability is still there, a triple in the domestic circuit is but an indicator. However, the ODI route seems shut for now with Virat Kohli stealing a march and Dhoni seeming to favour Raina, with some merit, over him. Gilchrist gushed about his leadership in the IPL. That is another aspect which will come under scrutiny.
Parthiv Patel has been making big runs under the radar recently although it is his keeping that has let him down in the past. While Wridhhiman Saha's selection was a surprise, in the absence of Dhoni it will always be DK and then PP. Why DK missed the bus this time nobody knows, but PP gets another go.
Eight 100s and four 50s in 39 innings are an indicator of Abhinav Mukund's potential. Remains to be seen who makes the final XI with Shikar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara apart from Rahane and PP in the squad. Like Rahane, he has time on his side and is an opener. A long term prospect and worth watching.
For me the most interesting player to watch would be Manish Pandey, still fresh from his heroics at Mysore and good support hand at Indore. The class is evident. This encounter will test his temperament. I back him to come good.
Another youngster who has impressed most people is R Ashwin. After turning a Duleep Trophy semifinal around, this break comes just at the right time for him. No secret that Bhajji is given the long rope thanks to MSD. Soon enough Bhajji will use the rope to hang himself and when he does that, Ashwin's time will come. It would be after WC2011. Till then he would do well to stay motivated.
This brief couple of weeks, sandwiched between Bangladesh and mindless IPL games could be a pointer to things to come for Indian cricket.