As expected, Yuvraj Singh has been named in the squad for the first two Tests against England, starting November 15. Harbhajan Singh was also recalled while Suresh Raina was dropped. M Vijay was included as the third specialist opener in the squad of 15, with Ajinkya Rahane as a middle-order batsman.
The first national selection meeting of the newly-appointed panel, headed by Sandeep Patil at the Cricket Centre in Mumbai, also attended by the captain MS Dhoni, didn't last long. While it was announced earlier that only the first Test squad would be selected, the selectors picked the squad for the first two Tests.
While Yuvraj has proven his fitness for the rigours of Test cricket over the last month after recovering from a germ cell cancer, Harbhajan was selected for his experience and lack of options once Piyush Chawla failed to recover from a thumb injury.
Yuvraj last featured in a Test in November 2011, (against the West Indies in Mumbai). The fact that Raina, who scored a half-century in the second Test against New Zealand in Bangalore, has been replaced by Vijay as the reserve opener clearly indicates that the selectors are looking at Ajinkya Rahane more as a middle-order batsman than as an opening option.
"We have selected three openers, not four," Patil told the BCCI website. "Ajinkya Rahane has been picked as a middle-order batsman. We have tried to provide the captain and the team management with a backup option for all departments. We have an extra spinner, top-order batsman, middle-order batsman and pacer."
Harbhajan, who last played a Test during the 2011 England tour, was included despite an ordinary start to the Ranji Tropy season. He went wicketless in 21 overs in the first innings for Punjab against Hyderabad, but picked up three wickets in the second. Harbhajan was recalled for the World Twenty20, where he turned in a match-winning 4 for 12 against England. He was not considered for Test selection by the previous selection panel following the England tour.
Asked whether the selectors had any specific long-term goal for the team, Patil said "No, we're going match by match and series by series. Every match is going to be important and we want the Indian team to do well in each of those matches. Let's not talk about the season ahead of us but this series against England that is coming up."
The only bone of contention for the selectors was to check Zaheer Khan's fitness status. The left-arm seamer had left the field with discomfort on Monday during Mumbai's Ranji Trophy game against Railways and underwent a fitness test. Minutes after the National Cricket Academy physiotherapist Ashish Kaushik submitted his report to the selection panel, the selectors finalised the squad.