India at full strength for New Zealand Tests
India have retained 15 of the 17 players who formed the Test squad for the tour of West Indies, for the upcoming three-Test series at home against New Zealand. The players to miss out were allrounder Stuart Binny and seamer Shardul Thakur.
Binny and Thakur played only one game in the Caribbean - the tour match against the WICB President's XI. Binny was later included in the T20I squad for the matches against West Indies in the USA, while Thakur joined the India A team on their tour of Australia.
Rohit Sharma is part of the Mumbai squad for a tour match against the New Zealanders in Delhi from September 16. When asked if Rohit would play, a Mumbai team official said they were waiting for confirmation from the BCCI about his availability.
"Rohit is a fabulous player, immense talent he has got, but he hasn't got a longer run in Test cricket," chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil said after the selection meeting in Mumbai. "What we have seen with Rohit Sharma is, he has been picked for one Test and then rested an entire season and again picked. So the selection committee, along with coach and captain, have decided that whoever is be picked will be given a fair amount of chances."
Perhaps the biggest question ahead of the selection of India's XI for the first Test is about who will open. M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan opened in the first Test on the tour of West Indies, but Vijay was injured for the second Test and KL Rahul took his chance and made 158 in Jamaica. Vijay was then left out of the third Test while Rahul and Dhawan opened, but returned for the final match in Trinidad, where he was slotted to open with Rahul before rain ruined the game.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who was replaced by Rohit in the third Test against West Indies because India were playing five bowlers, and then did not bat in the fourth Test, returned to form by scoring 166 and 256 at No. 3 in the ongoing Duleep Trophy in Greater Noida.
The squad contains three spinners - R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra - and four seamers - Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar - giving India the option of several combinations should they choose to play five bowlers.
The series against New Zealand is the beginning of a home season in which India will play 13 Tests until March next year. The first match against New Zealand will be played in Kanpur from September 22, while the second and third Tests will be held in Kolkata and Indore.
India are currently ranked No. 2 on the ICC Test rankings, only a point behind Pakistan, while New Zealand are placed seventh. India had briefly occupied the No. 1 ranking during the Test series against West Indies, following Australia's 3-0 defeat to Sri Lanka. They had a chance to consolidate their top spot with a win in the fourth Test in Port of Spain but the match was drawn because of rain and a wet outfield, and Pakistan climbed to No. 1 having drawn their series against England 2-2.
Squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, M Vijay, Umesh Yadav