Rahul, Karn, Raina in Test squad for Australia
Karnataka batsman KL Rahul and Railways legspinner Karn Sharma have been picked in India's squad for the four-match Test series against Australia, along with Suresh Raina, who last played a Test for India in September 2012. MS Dhoni's unavailability for the first Test meant that the selectors picked Naman Ojha as cover for Wriddhiman Saha in Brisbane.
Raina, who made his Test debut in 2010, began his career with a series of bright knocks, but lost his place after the 2011 England tour. He made a comeback in the home series against New Zealand in 2012-13 but was out of the side again after scores of 3, 55 and 0.
He had briefly lost his one-day place earlier this year, but he firmed up his place with a strong showing in the ODIs against England. In 16 ODIs this year, Raina has scored 528 runs at an average of 40.61, including a series tally of 160 runs in four games in England.
It is understood that team director Ravi Shastri, who has referred to Raina's return to the Test team as his "endeavour", played a big role in his inclusion. Shastri pressed for Raina's selection and the selectors, who have been impressed with his ODI form, decided to give him "one last chance".
Rahul was seen as a leading contender for the reserve opener's spot following consistent performances in domestic cricket and many, including former India captain Rahul Dravid had backed his selection. The 22-year-old Karnataka batsman was the second-highest run-getter in the 2013-14 first-class season, scoring 1158 runs at 52.63. His performances were key to Karnataka's Ranji Trophy triumph and he carried his form into this season, too, slamming a century in each innings of the Duleep Trophy final in New Delhi for South Zone. Rahul had toured Australia earlier this year with the India A squad, scoring 101 runs in two first-class games against Australia A.
India's spin attack, centered around R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, has been bolstered by the inclusion of Karn, who had recently made his international debut in a T20 against England. The Meerut-based legspinner who hit the headlines for his performances in IPL 2013, has played 34 first-class matches since 2007, taking 66 wickets. Karn was also picked in the squad for the last two ODIs of the five-match series against Sri Lanka, in which India have an unassailable 3-0 lead.
The selectors have picked five pace bowlers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, though a few of them have been struggling with fitness issues. Bhuvneshwar was rested for the ODI series against Sri Lanka, but Shami and Aaron have suffered injuries. While Shami's injury was not specified, Aaron injured his right leg in the first ODI of the series in Cuttack. Ishant, on the other hand, bowled only four overs in the third ODI in Hyderabad, due to a stiff back and was not considered for the last two ODIs against Sri Lanka.
India's Test squad for Australia MS Dhoni (capt), Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Naman Ojha*, R Ashwin, Karn Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron
*Ojha has been included only for the first Test.