Ten players who figured in the recent two-Test series against New Zealand (Hyderabad and Bangalore) have been retained for the first two Tests against England to be played at Ahmedabad (Nov. 15-19) and Mumbai (Nov. 23-27).
Left-hander Suresh Raina, who made a half century in the first innings of the Bangalore Test against New Zealand, has been dropped from the 15-member squad announced by the BCCI after a selection committee meeting at the Cricket Centre here on Monday.
Raina’s place will most likely be taken by Yuvraj Singh, who returns to the team almost a year after he played in the second Test against the West Indies at the Eden Gardens. Others recalled are off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and Murali Vijay; they have come in for S. Badrinath and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla.
Yuvraj Singh virtually demanded a place with an aggressive half century and after sending down nearly 27 overs and taking a career-best five for 94 against England at the Brabourne Stadium, Cricket Club of India, last week.
Harbhajan’s return was also more or less expected following his four-wicket success against England in the Twenty20 World Cup. The new selection committee appears to have brought an end to Badrinath’s chapter in Test cricket.
The Tamil Nadu middle order batsman just did not have luck in his favour after making his debut against South Africa 21 months ago. Retaining Ajinkya Rahane in the 15 is a signal that he will get a chance ahead of Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma and Bengal’s Manoj Tiwary.
The committee has included opener Virender Sehwag and left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan. Sehwag, who had injured a finger on his right hand, came in to bat at No. 6 and scored an unbeaten 105 against Uttar Pradesh at Ghaziabad. Zaheer was not on the field on Monday morning when Mumbai dismissed Railways in the first innings.
The committee would not have picked both without receiving clarity on the severity of their injuries, but doubts may persist with Zaheer — who requires another nine wickets to touch the 300 mark in Test cricket.
The three-day camp will make the picture clear about Zaheer’s fitness.
Murali Vijay did not capitalise on the two chances against the visitors last week, and his recall after July 2011 — when he played the three-Test series in the West Indies — is a reassurance from the committee that he will be the opening batsman they will be looking at when an opportunity arises.
The BCCI mailed a team for the two Tests, but without any comment on the injuries to Sehwag and Zaheer. It’s time the BCCI also makes the chairman of the selection committee available to the media after important selection committee meetings.
Selection committee chairman Sandeep Patil told BCCI.TV: “We have selected three openers, not four. Ajinkya Rahane has been picked as a middle-order batsman. We have tried to provide the captain and the team management with a back-up option for all departments. We have an extra spinner, top-order batsman, middle-order batsman and pacer.”
The team for the first two Tests: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Cheteshwar Pujara, R. Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Murali Vijay and Zaheer Khan.