The new selectors led by former wicket-keeper batsman MSK Prasad were expected to select a squad for the first three test matches against England without any surprises. However there were quite a few surprises when the squad announced, the most interesting one being the selection of all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
The selectors were forced to leave out K Rahul, S Dhawan and R Sharma who are all recovering from injuries. They retained Gautam Gambhir who will partner with M Vijay to open the batting in the first two tests. B Kumar who performed really well in the New Zealand tests was fit but not selected as they selectors felt he did not have sufficient match practice as he had not played any first class games. They chose Ishant Sharma to replace him who missed the New Zealand series due to a viral infection.
Kumble and Kohli will have to take an important decision before the first tests starts on November 9 in Rajkot. Since Sharma is unavailable they will have to decide if they replace him with a batsman which will most likely be Karun Nair, or a fifth bowler which will most likely be A Mishra or an all-rounder in H Pandya.
Pandya has never played a test match for India and while he impressed with a man of the match performance in the first ODI against New Zealand his form quickly declined and he was dropped for the fifth ODI. However the chairman of selectors has a different opinion.
In a statement, MSK Prasad said “Pandya’s pace has increased, he is moving the ball, his batsmanship has improved. And he has mellowed down as a person. He is one allrounder we thought is an equally competent bowler and batsman. And a good fielder too. Rahul Dravid has worked hard on the mental side of his game. Now Anil Kumble is guiding him. We have three allrounders – Stuart Binny, Hardik Pandya, Rishi Dhawan. In this particular series, he scores ahead of Binny. Much quicker and better bowler than Stuart. With form and fitness, Hardik is a better option.”
The squad for the first two tests are Virat Kohli (captain), R Ashwin, Gautam Gambhir, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), Karun Nair, M Vijay, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Jayant Yadav.