Gambhir, Ishant and Laxman return for Tests
Gautam Gambhir, VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma have recovered from injuries that kept them out of the second Test against Australia, and are included in India's squad for the three-Test series against New Zealand, which begins on November 4 in Ahmedabad. That Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay filled in superbly for Laxman and Gambhir in Bangalore made this a straightforward selection, with both of them retaining their places in the 15-member squad. Amit Mishra and Sreesanth will be the reserve spinner and seamer respectively.
All three returning players missed parts of the first Test in Mohali. Gambhir and Ishant struggled with knee injuries, and Laxman back spasms. Taking injections and painkilling tablets, Laxman and Ishant took India to an improbable win with an 81-run ninth-wicket stand on the final day. All three sat out of the second Test in Bangalore. Gambhir and Laxman have had to struggle with injury over the year: Laxman had to fight back spasms during his match-winning century in August at the P Sara Oval, a Test Gambhir missed.
No one will complain if Gambhir and Laxman walk into the side, but during their absence in Bangalore, Vijay and Pujara did enough to show they were ready should they be needed again. Vijay scored a century after India were 38 for 2 in the first innings, and Pujara smashed 72 off 89 balls from No. 3 in the successful chase of 207. Both were good in close-in positions in the field. Sreesanth, who bowled better than his figures of 0 for 79 and 2 for 48 might suggest, will be easier to replace by Ishant.
In what could be another good sign, India chose to go without any back-up wicketkeeper. That could mean MS Dhoni is more confident of his fitness after back trouble and a finger injury meant India had to pick a back-up keeper for the home series against South Africa and the Sri Lanka tour earlier this year.
With the first-choice XI presumably fit, and the reserves looking good for more responsibilities, this is perhaps the strongest Indian Test side, given the conditions, in a long time.
Kris Srikkanth, chairman of the Indian selection committee, was pleased with the exploits of the injury replacements who played against Australia, and looked forward to more success against New Zealand. "The team had performed extremely well against the Australians in both the Tests and one-day series. Particularly, the Bangalore Test was the icing on the cake. The junior players have gelled well with the seniors. I am confident that our players will continue their victory march."
India: MS Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag (vice-capt), Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, M Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra