Rohit, Rahul and Dhawan to miss first two England Tests
India are missing three major batsmen - openers KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan, and Rohit Sharma - because of injures for the first two Tests against England. Allrounder Hardik Pandya has been included in the Test squad for the first time in his career.
Fast bowler Ishant Sharma returned to the 15-man squad after missing the Test series against New Zealand because of an illness. Bhuvneshwar Kumar had recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered during the second Test against New Zealand but was not picked because he had not played a first-class game since.
Rohit sustained an injury to his upper thigh during the ODI series against New Zealand, and is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks, and might need surgery too. That put him out of the series. There was no like-for-like replacement for Rohit, which could mean a debut for Karun Nair or Pandya in Rajkot unless India play five specialist bowlers.
Gautam Gambhir, who scored a second-innings fifty in his comeback Test against New Zealand in Indore, was set to continue as the opener for the first Test at least. He had returned to the Test squad because of the injuries to Rahul and Dhawan. Rahul missed the last two Tests and the ODIs against New Zealand because of a hamstring injury, and Dhawan was ruled out for the third Test and the limited-overs contests because of a thumb injury.
Fast bowler Shardul Thakur was dropped from the squad after coming in as a replacement during the Tests against New Zealand. That he would concede his place once Ishant regained fitness was expected.
What was not expected was the selection of Baroda's Pandya, who has played just 16 first-class matches and taken 22 wickets at an average of 33. He has already played four ODIs and 16 T20 internationals. He featured in the 2016 World T20, and was the Man of the Match on his ODI debut.
MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, saw Pandya bowl on India A's tour of Australia, a tour that first paved his way into the ODI side and now into the Test squad.
"Pandya's pace has increased, he is moving the ball, his batsmanship has improved," Prasad said. "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."
India are presently the No. 1 ranked team in Tests, following their 3-0 victory against New Zealand. The first Test against England is in Rajkot from November 9, and the second in Visakhapatnam from November 17.
Squad Virat Kohli (capt.), R Ashwin, Gautam Gambhir, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Karun Nair, M Vijay, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Jayant Yadav