Ishwar Pandey gets maiden India Test call-up
Ishwar Pandey, the Madhya Pradesh fast bowler, has received a maiden call-up to the India Test squad, which will play in New Zealand in February. Pandey also features in the ODI squad, along with Karnataka allrounder Stuart Binny and Jharkhand quick Varun Aaron.
Pandey was the leading wicket-taker in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy, with 48 wickets at 21.06, and he has remained effective in the current Ranji season as well. He has 30 wickets at 24.76 in eight games this season, including innings figures of 8 for 84 against Railways in Indore. Pandey bowls in the mid-130s but, tall by Indian standards, uses his height to get good bounce even from a good length.
Stuart Binny, a medium-pacer and middle-order batsman capable of getting quick runs when needed, has had a decent Ranji season for Karnataka with bat and ball. He had, earlier this year, earned a call-up to the India A squad that toured South Africa but this is Binny's maiden call-up to the senior squad. His selection is likely to have been prompted by the need for a pace-bowling allrounder to add balance to the team in New Zealand conditions. Binny's father Roger was a key member of India's 1983 World Cup-winning team, and is currently a national selector.
Varun Aaron played the last of his four ODIs in December 2011, in the home series against West Indies. He had impressed then with his ability to bowl at over 140kmph regularly but has been plagued by injury since. He was left out for the tour of Australia in 2011-12 and, though he returned for the 2012 IPL, he suffered the recurrence of a back injury that kept him away from competitive cricket for 15 months. Following a tweak in his bowling action to reduce the stress on his back, Aaron made a comeback in the current Ranji season, and has played five four-day games for Jharkhand since November.
Yuvraj had a woeful home ODI series against Australia in October, scoring 19 runs in four innings, when he was visibly troubled by the pace of Mitchell Johnson. He couldn't bat himself back into form in the home ODIs against West Indies or on the South Africa tour and was expected to be dropped for the New Zealand tour given the conditions in that country and the hosts' pace-heavy attack. Mohit Sharma, the Haryana pacer, also finds himself out of the one-day squad after being expensive in South Africa.
Ojha, the left-arm spinner, is not in the Test squad despite his solid 2013 record: 18 wickets in eight innings at 23.11. He probably lost out because of the India selectors's wish to beef up the pace attack to suit New Zealand conditions. Ojha did not feature in the Test XI in South Africa, losing out to R Ashwin in Johannesburg and Ravindra Jadeja in Durban.
India will go in to the New Zealand Tests with the experienced Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, bowlers who can bowl quick in Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami, the bounce of Pandey, and the swing of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Ashwin and Jadeja make up the spin department, while the batting line-up remains the same after having largely impressed in South Africa.