India in England 2014 May 28, 2014

Zaheer out, Gambhir in for England Tests

ESPNcricinfo staff

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Zaheer Khan has failed to find a place in an unusually large squad for the five Tests against England starting July. Other major talking points in the 18-man squad were the return of Gautam Gambhir, who last played Tests for India in December 2012, and the inclusion of Rajasthan's pace bowler Pankaj Singh. The touring party included the top seven that went to New Zealand, retained the two spinners, featured six quicks and one seaming allrounder, to go with Gambhir and reserve wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.

The biggest talking point was the exclusion of Zaheer. A series of injury problems had raised questions over the 35-year-old Zaheer's ability to last a Test series and though he dispelled those worries by bowling 107 overs in the two Tests against New Zealand earlier this year, a back injury forced him to miss almost the entire India leg of the IPL. It is still unclear whether Zaheer has missed out due to the injury, or whether he has been dropped.

The last time India went to England, in 2011, Zaheer broke down in the second session of the first Test, never to recover. That was the beginning of India's dramatic slide in overseas Tests.

Gambhir, another casualty of that England tour, returned to the Test squad after a year and a half despite a middling first-class season as the squad is short on experience: only two other members in the squad, MS Dhoni and Ishant Sharma, have played Tests in England. There were no other outstanding contenders for the back-up openers' slot.

Pankaj has been rewarded for several successful seasons on the domestic circuit, including 39 wickets at 22.46 in the 2013-14 Ranji Trophy. He had also been integral to Rajasthan's run to successive Ranji titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12, and has made several impassioned pleas questioning his absence from the national squad. If Pankaj gets to play a Test, he will become the India bowler with most first-class wickets before Test debut, 300, beating R Vinay Kumar's 241.

The six quicks were joined by allrounder Stuart Binny. The only back-up batsman in the squad was Gambhir, with Saha on hand as second-choice wicketkeeper.

India have not played a five-Test series in more than a decade, the last was against West Indies in 2002. India have not won a Test abroad in three years, and have lost away series to South Africa and New Zealand in the past six months, causing them to slide to No. 5 in the ranking.

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  • Android on June 11, 2014, 6:55 GMT

    we as indians should support any team be it good or bad many are criticising because their favourite player may not be there to be honest if the selectors select a team of fans choice then it may loose badly who knows. so keep calm and pour down your comments once the series is over. now all we need to do is to show our full support to the team rather than criticising it.

  • Akshay on June 1, 2014, 12:43 GMT

    my playing 11 - vijay,dhawan,pujara.kohli,rahane,rohit,dhoni,pankaj,bhuvi,ishant,jadeja

  • Naresh on May 31, 2014, 14:14 GMT

    #landl47 - agree with you. PK could lead the attack.

  • Dummy4 on May 31, 2014, 11:04 GMT

    Finally five test series to look forward too. Its been a long time coming and heres hoping we see a lot more of them.

    That being said - India clearly start out as Underdogs and will need to play a lot better on than their last foray. I'm worried about the opening partner for Murali Vijay - who i think will make a good fist of it - but Dhawan and Gambhir whoever they pick have got to tighten up in English conditions. Pujara and Kohli are key to India's chances and along with Rahane they will hope to get a decent start from the opners by way of taking the shine off the ball to set up above par scores on the board.

    The bowling is a worry as always - Amit Mishra and Prabeen Kumar should have been in there - can't see Stuart Binny playing in the test team yet. Mishra and Praveen are both wicket takers and thats what we desperately need, bowlers who can force the issue. Umesh is a surprise exclusion - hopefully Varun Aaron can justify his inclusion.

    Let the battle begin.

  • geebee3 on May 30, 2014, 19:29 GMT

    I'm afraid Pankaj Singh has been picked 300 wickets too late. Looks like the Selectors missed the boat(again) over here.

  • shankar on May 30, 2014, 15:55 GMT

    I am sure Dhoni and selectors have realized that by picking out-of-date Gambhir over Sehwag, they have blown away India's chances of even earning a draw in England. Sehwag may not have scored big in IPL, but boy! he is smacking the ball right out of the middle of the bat. Again and again. Every single ball.

  • Kamran on May 30, 2014, 6:08 GMT

    Did anyone noticed that there are all right-arm seamers? This is stupid selection seeing the fact that there are more left-handers in the English team. Even Irfan phatan would have been a better selection with red ball in swinging conditions and why they have dropped the best pacer of India (Zaheer)? If he would have not lasted that longer, He would be a great bowling mentor for the young quicks.

  • Rahul on May 30, 2014, 6:03 GMT

    Pankaj Singh will get no place in playing 11 and Binny... Sigh! Yeah, he is in the team to "Get the balance" right. "Team Player", "A seasoned Campaigner" these words are used for him,when he is just an average player,Rishi Dhawan is better than him. No point in selecting a medium pacer who can "bat a bit". Yadav and Mishra can count themselves unlucky. Ishant will go on to play all the tests as long as Dhoni is the Captain.Can you imagine dernbach playing 50 tests? Its a damn shame & an insult to all those great players who haven't played even half of 'em in their careers. And Yadav,Mishra have been sacrificed for Ishant,Ashwin and Binny. What is the criterion to get into the Indian team ?If I were a young Indian bowler aspiring for the Indian team,I would be discouraged because of the captain's repetitive selections irrespective of the team's performances and his stubbornness not to make any changes in the team even after dismal performances of the bowlers. Ind fans are disappointed.

  • Rahul on May 30, 2014, 5:50 GMT

    @Vikrajendran -Dhoni is rightfully criticized for his selections and his stubbornness to stick with his favorites Ash,Ish & an unfit Zak. Its not as if India doesnt have good bowlers,it does.BUT, Dhoni never looks beyond Ishant,Zak and Ashwin.Why was Yadav,India's fastest bowler,who performed brilliantly in England in CT dropped ?Why he did not go with a Leg Spinner instead of Ashwin,who averages 250+ in the tours of SA and NZ and Ashwin was dropped in the last 3 tests India played overseas. So,whats the point of picking him for 5 Tests in England ? Mishra,has grabbed his chances with both hands everytime he played for India.Dhoni never drops Ishant even when he has the worst average in the history of the game for a front line bowler,has no less pace than bhuvi,no movement and has been bowling the same short of a length length since 6 Years.Dhoni,after winning,"No change in a winning combo." Dhoni after losing,"We need to back our players" Back them so much that they get complacent.

  • Dummy4 on May 30, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    Again Ishant Sharma and Murali Vijay?? That means Rahane and Gambhir will not play. Stuart Binny will handle the towel and drinks. Irfan Pathan should have been given another chance to prove in Tests. They should have picked some batsmen who had performed in domestic like Kedar Jhadav instead of Murali Vijay.