India in Australia 2011-12 November 26, 2011

Harbhajan left out of Australia tour

ESPNcricinfo staff

India have left out Harbhajan Singh from the squad for the Test series in Australia, picking Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin as the spinners in the 17-man group. Medium-pacer Praveen Kumar, who was part of the team in England, returns to the squad in place of legspinner Rahul Sharma, who was part of the squad for the ongoing Test series against West Indies but did not play a match.

The squad comprised eight specialist batsmen, two wicketkeeper batsmen, five fast bowlers and two spinners. Wriddhiman Saha was named as reserve wicketkeeper, while Zaheer Khan, who is recovering from hamstring and ankle injuries, will join the team subject to match fitness.

"Zaheer will play in a couple of Ranji Trophy matches. And once he is fully match-fit and everything is fine, he will join the side," Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of India's selectors, said. "He may also go with the team as by the time [the team leaves] he would have played a couple of matches."

MS Dhoni, the India captain, said that Zaheer testing his fitness in a Ranji game for Mumbai against Orissa would be beneficial for both the player and the team. "He [Zaheer] gives his 100%. But if you have to undergo rehab it has to be done really well," Dhoni said. "We are hoping that he is 100% fit for the Australia series. Once he plays a first-class game that will help judge to some extent the way he feels."

Zaheer bowled to the Indian batsmen in the lead up to the third Test against West Indies at the Wankhede and Dhoni said he "looked quite fit."

Harbhajan's omission was a result of left-arm spinner Ojha and offspinner Ashwin produced compelling performances in the Test series against West Indies. Ashwin was the series' highest wicket-taker with 22 scalps at 22.90 apiece, while Ojha took 20 at 22.50. Ashwin also scored his maiden international century in the third Test at the Wankhede.

"Unfortunately, we cannot help it [not picking Harbhajan] as the team selects itself," Srikkanth said. "In Australia, you cannot have more than two spinners. Pragyan Ojha and Ashwin are doing an excellent job. Sometimes it becomes bad luck and sometimes people miss out. I'm sure everyone has their own time and space to come back."

Harbhajan had been dropped from the squad for the West Indies series after a poor performance in England, where he took only two wickets in two Tests before an abdominal-muscle injury forced him to return home. He failed to perform in the Ranji Trophy as well, managing only two wickets at an average of 102 in three matches as captain of Punjab. On India's previous tour to Australia, in 2007-08, Harbhajan had a tally of eight wickets in three Tests at 61.25. He conceded over 100 runs in an innings three times in that series. 

Yuvraj Singh, who will miss the upcoming ODI series against West Indies because of a lung problem, and Suresh Raina, were also not in not in the team.

"We have chosen a very balanced side. We have taken everything into account, including fitness and Australian conditions," Srikkanth said. "If you ask me today whether this team can beat Australia in Australia, I would say I'm very confident. We should beat Australia in Australia in a Test series.

"Our batsman are in form, our bowlers are in form. And now we have all kinds of bowlers. We have fast bowlers, medium-fast bowlers, we have swing bowlers, spinners - left-arm and offspin," Srikkanth said. "So depending on the conditions there the team management will select the team on a match-to-match basis."

Squad: MS Dhoni (capt &wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Rohit Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Zaheer Khan (subject to fitness).

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shanmugam on November 29, 2011, 19:15 GMT

    I notice optimism running high among Indian fans. There is good reason for that as Australia are at their weakest in a long time. Despite that, they still won a test quite comfortably against a strong England team last year. India's batting cannot fail like in England for two reasons - 1) there is too much quality in that line-up to fail for two consecutive away series, 2) the Aussie bowling attack is nowhere near as good as England's (Cummins may come as a surprise but can't imagine Siddle running through the Indian line-up, Harris is almost always injured and Johnson is, well, Johnson). It is India's bowlers, especially the pacemen, that will determine the result of the series. OZ land is a graveyard for many spinners and I don't see Ashwin/Ojha doing too well there. If Zaheer is fit and plays all the matches, it is hard to see anything other than an Indian win or a drawn series. If not, it is most likely going to be 1-0 or 2-0 to Aus.

  • Dummy4 on November 29, 2011, 16:59 GMT

    if zaheer is fit then there is any chance for in india to win other wise australia will 2-0

  • Shyam on November 28, 2011, 16:17 GMT

    India's success in the last few years are majorly due the long tail we had. Considering that Ashwin shud play ahead of Ojha, but who knows Ojha bowling alone can be more economic than Ashwin's economy + batting score. Lets see who gives success to India.

  • Srinivas on November 28, 2011, 14:20 GMT

    @ people taking objection to my lifeless, flat tracks remark - IF tracks assisting spinners are termed as dead, lifeless and flat (with reference to pacers) THEN isn't it true that tracks assisting pacers will also be termed as dead, lifeless and flat with reference to spinners? So, get over it bros. Ask your boys to play on Indian Tracks before terming our challenging and sporting tracks as dead, flat and lifeless. Oh yes, those greentops are lifeless, flat and dead nonsense tracks with reference to spinners.

  • Deepak on November 28, 2011, 13:19 GMT

    I think the squad is good....the 2 spinners deserve the opportunity, although having harbhajan would have been nice, we have to face the fact that he has not bowled well for India in tests in a long time....i think he should be considered for the ODI's as he is really tight when it comes to runs....the 5 fast bowlers and 8 batsmen are ideal for the squad...Virat Kohli is a really good pick and he should be persisted with...Raina has not proved he is a versatile player in non-indian conditions other than a few performances which is bound to happen considering the amount of opportunities he has got....All in all the squad is the best we have and hope all our players are fit for the entire series unlike the England tour, fingers crossed.

  • subhash on November 28, 2011, 11:10 GMT

    if experience and past performances must be considered to pick a squad then can we pick kapil dev as a fast bowler only cos he has experience.... similar case in harbajan's case... he is a legend i agree ... let him stay so... but u cant play him ... tat ll be foolish.... currently i think raina spins the ball more than harbajan and picks up more wickets ;)

  • Dummy4 on November 28, 2011, 11:04 GMT

    Irfan should be in team ..It is not under the Umesh and Arun and spinners will not able to hold Australian batsman on fast pitches...Pragyan and Ashwin is good choice but fast bawling all-rounder badly needed for India...but Dhoni and selectors repeating agian and again ....we have already seen pur position on fast pictes vs England in England ....

  • Manesh on November 28, 2011, 10:03 GMT

    this time, India will win the series 2-0. Because Buknor is

  • Dummy4 on November 28, 2011, 9:34 GMT

    By far the best team selected for the Australian tour. All credits goes to the selectors for not being biased to past performances. If Zaheer is fit , then he, Ishant, Praveen and Umesh should be in playing 11, we might then have to sacrifice one spinner, it should be either Ashwin or Ojha, however being a good batsman cum a bowler , Ashwin should be in the 11. Therefore , the 11 players who should play the first test would be : Shewag, Gambhir, Dravid, Sachin, Laxman, Dhoni, Ashwin, Zaheer, Ishant, Praveen and Umesh Yadav.

  • Dummy4 on November 28, 2011, 9:28 GMT

    Why the repeated cry for an Irfan Pathan? His pace has receded - from high 130s to low 120s, and he is not half the bowler he used to be. He has lost his craft while trying to be an all-rounder. India can do without any 'passengers' in the team. The team selected for Australia is balanced, and is based entirely on form and performance. The selectors merit kudos for a job well done.

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