Gambhir back in Test squad after two years
Opening batsman Gautam Gambhir has returned to India's Test set-up two years after playing his previous international. He was called up for the remaining home Tests against New Zealand in place of the injured KL Rahul. Rahul had injured his right hamstring during the first Test in Kanpur, while running between the wickets.
Also, fast bowler Ishant Sharma, who missed the first Test with chikungunya, will not play the second Test either as he is yet to recover fully. Uncapped Haryana offspinner Jayant Yadav will replace Ishant in the squad for the second Test in Kolkata. The BCCI said in a release that it would "continue to monitor Ishant's progress".
Gambhir was picked after showing good form in the Duleep Trophy, the domestic first-class tournament featuring the top-performing players in the country. He scored 356 runs in the competition from five innings at 71.20, and was dismissed only once without getting to a half-century.
A BCCI insider said Gambhir was tough to ignore in the current situation given his form and experience. "Gambhir is definitely under consideration because he has been doing extremely well, and even the team management feels that with 12-13 Test matches coming up there needs to be some experience [at the top]," the official said.
Gambhir, 34, played his last Test in August 2014, on India's tour to England. He aggregated 25 runs on that tour, from four innings, as India went from a 1-0 lead to losing the five-match series 3-1. That series, too, was a comeback for him, as he was dropped in 2012 and missed all India's Tests in 2013 due to a sharp decline in form.
Before that, though, he was one half of India's successful opening partnership with Virender Sehwag. The pair scored 4412 runs, the most by an opening pair for India in Tests. Overall, he has 4046 runs in 56 Tests at 42.58, with nine centuries, and was a regular in the Test team between 2008 and 2012.
Rahul was picked to play the Kanpur Test over the more experienced Shikhar Dhawan. On the preceding tour to the West Indies, too, he had been picked over either Dhawan or M Vijay in three of the four Tests, scoring a fifty and a hundred in three innings.
Apart from his offspin, Jayant, 26, can also contribute runs down the order. He put in solid performances on India A's recent tour of Australia, picking up seven wickets in the unofficial Tests at 22.57 apiece. In the 2014-15 Ranji Trophy he topped Haryana's bowling charts with 33 wickets, and in March this year he claimed a match haul of eight against Mumbai in the Irani Cup - a first-class match that pits the season's Ranji champions against a Rest of India XI. He also has a first-class double-ton to his name and a record-breaking eighth-wicket stand of 392, scored in partnership with Amit Mishra in 2012.