Harbhajan out of Test squad; Kohli, Ashwin in
Harbhajan Singh has been excluded from India's squad for the first Test against West Indies, one of eight changes to the squad that was picked to tour England earlier this year. R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Rahul Sharma make up the spin department with Amit Mishra also left out, leaving India with a completely different set of spinners to the one they had on the England tour.
Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh have recovered from their injuries in time to make it to the squad, which will be captained by MS Dhoni.
The pace department also has a new look with Praveen Kumar and Sreesanth being left out in favour of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. Ajinkya Rahane also finds a place as a reserve opener, ahead of M Vijay and Abhinav Mukund, while Virat Kohli replaces Suresh Raina.
"We think from the future point of view," Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of selectors, told NDTV. "We have to look at building the side from the perspective of the future". He also said there would be not problems with fitness. "Everybody is 100 percent fit, I can assure you that fitness will not be a concern."
India had already left out Harbhajan from the one-dayers against England at home, and have now dropped him from the Test squad as well. R Ashwin, who has been a regular part of India's one-day side but is yet to debut in Tests, was an obvious replacement, but Rahul Sharma's inclusion is surprising. Rahul, a legspinner who plays for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy and Pune Warriors in the IPL, has played only 10 first-class games and does not hold a regular place in the Punjab side. His performances in the IPL earned him a place in India's squad for the limited-overs matches against England, but though he is yet to play a game in that series he has been selected for the Test squad.
Harbhajan had to leave the England tour midway through with a strain in his abdomen, after having taken just two wickets in the first two Tests. That had been preceded by a mediocre tour of the West Indies, and he now finds himself out of the India setup, two matches short of 100 Tests. Amit Mishra replaced Harbhajan Singh in the side for the last two Tests in England but was ineffective, ending up with figures of 0 for 170 - the fourth-worst for an India bowler in Tests - at the Oval. Pragyan Ojha, who impressed during India's two home Test series last year but has subsequently been left out, returns after taking 24 wickets at an average of 12.95 for Surrey in the County Championship in England.
Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav have been included after impressing with their pace in the home ODIs against England, which means all three seamers in the squad are under the age of 25. Ishant Sharma has been included after undergoing rehabilitation on a ligament injury in his left ankle. Zaheer Khan is still recovering from ankle surgery, while Munaf Patel also injured his ankle during the ODIs in England.
The batting line-up has a more familiar look to it, with several seniors returning from injury. Virat Kohli's prolific run-scoring in the ODIs against England has earned him a place ahead of Suresh Raina, who struggled against the short ball in England. Kohli played all three Tests in the West Indies in June, but managed a highest-score of just 30. He will be in a straight shootout with Yuvraj Singh for the No.6 spot. Ajinka Rahane's 91 against England in Mohali has done enough to convince the selectors to call him up to the Test squad.
The first Test against West Indies begins November 6 in Delhi.
Squad for first Test: M S Dhoni (capt & wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Virat Kohli, Varun Aaron, Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Sharma