Rohit, Parthiv, Vijay picked for Australia Tests; Pandya still unfit
Rohit Sharma, M Vijay and Parthiv Patel have all been recalled for the Tests in Australia in December and January, as the selectors have decided to fall back on experience for the big series. Prithvi Shaw, who shone with a century on Test debut, was picked as one of the openers in the squad of 18, apart from Vijay and KL Rahul, and the pace attack was back to its full strength of Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav.
Allrounder Hardik Pandya, who had picked up a back injury during the Asia Cup, "had not fully recovered" for the Test series, according to chief selector MSK Prasad. "It's very difficult to match Hardik's all-round ability," Prasad further said. "At least we don't see that kind of ability now in India. That's why no other alternatives were discussed. And we expect Bhuvi to come good, we know he can bat.
"We felt that Rohit's nature of play, a very good back-foot player, is suited for Australia. Murali Vijay was dropped from the England series. He went back and he played the county and showed his intent and performed and considering the intensity of the series, we've included him for the Australia series."
Hanuma Vihari, who was controversially given a Test debut in England ahead of Karun Nair, was retained while Mayank Agarwal was dropped after he was picked for the two home Tests against West Indies but did not get a game. By dropping Agarwal, the selectors strengthened the middle-order options, but went back to Rohit instead of giving Nair another chance. Vihari recently scored three straight half-centuries, two for India B in the Deodhar Trophy and one for Andhra in domestic one-day matches, and also counts as a bowling option with his offbreaks.
The selectors picked the usual spin attack of R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav, apart from allrounder Ravindra Jadeja.
Both Rohit and Parthiv had played two out of the three Tests each in South Africa earlier this year. While Rohit was dropped later for his poor form with the bat - for a total of 78 runs in four innings in South Africa - Parthiv was dropped not just for lack of runs (56 runs from four innings) but for dropping several catches while keeping. Picked as the second wicketkeeping option apart from Rishabh Pant, it is unlikely Parthiv would have been called up had Wriddhiman Saha been fit for the Test series.
While Rohit continued with his form in ODIs during the Asia Cup and against West Indies, Parthiv returned to the domestic circuit to score a half-century in two innings in the Duleep Trophy, but managed a high score of only 47 in eight innings in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He scored 182 runs at an average of 22.75 in the tournament, including two ducks.
"He was not picked for the game against Afghanistan and also the England series but subsequently he played the Duleep Trophy, he batted well and kept well," Prasad said of Parthiv. "If you see the selection we've done for the whole team, it's a mixture of youth and experience, which we really wanted because it's going to be a high-intensity series. Which is why we've fallen back on experience. The advantage of Parthiv is that he's a left-hander and can bat at any position. When the team demanded, even with a fractured hand he opened the innings in South Africa. So considering all these factors, we've picked him."
Vijay, on the other hand, played the first two Tests in England but made only 26 runs overall, including a pair at Lord's, before he was dropped from the tour. Soon enough, he represented Essex in the County Championship and impressed with scores of 80, 2, 85, 56 and 100 - the century coming in a chase of 282. He could not impress as much in the Vijay Hazare Trophy back at home but his first-class form was enough to get him picked for the Tests.
Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah had been rested from the Tests against West Indies and were slotted back, and so was Ishant, who did not play against West Indies after he picked up an ankle injury during the Oval Test.
The Test squad will fly out for Australia on November 16, to play a warm-up game starting the 28th before the four-Test series begins on December 6 in Adelaide.
Agarwal found a place in the India A squad that will play first of the three matches in New Zealand. Prasad said that fixture would act as a warm-up before the Australia Tests since it also includes Vijay, Shaw, Vihari, Rohit, Ajinkya Rahane (captain) and Parthiv, among others, from the Test squad. Nair was named captain for a different A squad that would play the remaining two first-class matches in New Zealand; the squad also features Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Vijay Shankar, Ishan Kishan, Shahbaz Nadeem and Mohammed Siraj. The three four-day matches in New Zealand will be played in Mount Maunganui, Hamilton and Whangarei.
Test squad: Virat Kohli (capt), M Vijay, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-capt), Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Parthiv Patel, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar
A squad for first match in New Zealand: M Vijay, Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane (capt), Parthiv Patel (wk), K Gowtham, Shahbaz Nadeem, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Rajneesh Gurbani, Vijay Shankar, KS Bharat
A squad for second and third matches in New Zealand: Abhimanyu Easwaran, Mayank Agarwal, R Samarth, Karun Nair (capt), Ankit Bawne, Shubman Gill, Vijay Shankar, KS Bharat (wk), Ishan Kishan, K Gowtham, Shahbaz Nadeem, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Rajneesh Gurbani