Ishant ruled out of first Test
Ishant Sharma has been ruled out of the first Test against South Africa but the two Singhs - Yuvraj and Harbhajan - have been retained after the selectors named an expected 14-member squad in Bangalore.
Murali Kartik was brought in as the third spinner, but an ankle sprain, sustained during the Deodhar Trophy game in Bangalore, has ruled him out for three weeks. Piyush Chawla, who was named as a back-up, thus finds himself in the squad.
"It is a serious injury and will take a minimum of three weeks to heal," Bangalore-based surgeon Chetan Rai, who examined Kartik soon after the incident, told AFP.
There are also question marks over Harbhajan Singh, the offspinner. He didn't undergo the fitness test he was scheduled to undergo today and will have to do so on March 21.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who suffered a sprain to a finger, will also have to clear a test on the same day, failing which Dinesh Karthik will take over the wicketkeeping duties.
Ishant had suffered an inflammation to his big toe during India's recent tour to Australia, apart from a finger injury, and was advised complete rest for three weeks. His selection for the second Test, starting in Ahmedabad on April 3, is subject to another fitness test.
Yuvraj, who had a problem with his knee, underwent a fitness test at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. He had a poor run in the Tests in Australia, scoring just 17 in two matches, but retained his spot. Wasim Jaffer, another player who was dropped during the Australia series, also held on to his place.
Sreesanth comes back into the side after recovering from a shoulder problem. RP Singh, who suffered a hamstring strain in Adelaide, also made the cut and showed his fine form with a five-wicket haul against North Zone in the Deodhar Trophy match in Bangalore. Zaheer Khan, who had said he needs more time to recover, wasn't picked and Niranjan Shah, the board secretary, felt "he may miss the series".
Virender Sehwag, who made a match-saving hundred in the Adelaide Test, was retained and celebrated with a rollicking 81 in the Deodhar Trophy in Bangalore. The middle order has a familiar look to it.
Anil Kumble will spearhead the spin department but it remains to be seen who his partner will be in the first Test in Chennai, which starts on March 26. The meeting, chaired by Dilip Vengsarkar, lasted an hour and a half. Kumble and Gary Kirsten, the newly-appointed coach, were present as well.
Squad for the first two Tests Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble (capt), Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Sreesanth, RP Singh.
Back-up: Dinesh Karthik