India's already-depleted squad for the tour of the West Indies has suffered further setbacks: shoulder injuries to Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh's respiratory infection, and Sachin Tendulkar's wish to spend time with his family have ruled the four players out of the whole trip. This will be the first instance of Tendulkar missing an entire Test series since he sat out India's previous full tour of the Caribbean in 2006. Meanwhile, Cheteshwar Pujara lost the chance to cement his place in the Test side as a knee injury picked up in the IPL made him unavailable.
Expectedly, a number of uncapped players and those trying to make comebacks got their chance. Suresh Raina got a second chance at ODI captaincy in Gambhir's absence (MS Dhoni was rested for the limited-overs leg of the tour), and Manoj Tiwary and Shikhar Dhawan got a chance to add to their one ODI cap each. S Badrinath made a Test comeback, but the bigger news remained the uncapped players in the Test squad: Virat Kohli and Abhinav Mukund, who is almost certain to open with his Tamil Nadu team-mate M Vijay.
Mukund, a 21-year-old left-hand batsman, has impressive first-class numbers to back him: an average close to 60 over 40 matches and 13 centuries, including a triple-ton. Vijay has been an automatic choice as Test opener every time either Gambhir or Sehwag is unavailable. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman provide the experience in the middle order, which leaves Kohli, Raina and Badrinath fighting for the two remaining slots.
Jaidev Unadkat and Umesh Yadav, who were picked inexplicably ahead of Abhimanyu Mithun for the South Africa tour, got the boot, making way for Munaf Patel and an extra spinner in Amit Mishra. Pragyan Ojha, who was part of India's Test squad to South Africa but missed all ODI cricket since, returned too. Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh, though, remained the likely first-choice attack.
Parthiv Patel replaced Wriddhiman Saha as Dhoni's wicketkeeping cover in the Test squad, not least because he can open the innings should Mukund struggle or should the team management not consider him ready to debut.
As expected, the selection meeting in Chennai, attended by the new coach Duncan Fletcher, was a long affair lasting more than two hours. Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of selectors, said that Fletcher's "intelligent inputs" were utilised completely in picking the "best" available team.
The timing of the Test selection is surprisingly early: the first Test begins on June 20, and the selectors could have waited longer to see if any of the injuries or illnesses could have neared healing. The long recovery period associated with the injuries to Sehwag and Gambhir would have been a factor. And because of the pneumonitis in his left lung, we will never know if Yuvraj would have been considered for a Test comeback, on the back of his World Cup heroics.
In all, India are without Tendulkar, Dhoni, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Gambhir and Ashish Nehra for the ODIs. They will also have to do without Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir and Pujara for the Tests.
Test squad: MS Dhoni (capt), VVS Laxman (vc), M Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel.
Limited-overs squad: Suresh Raina (capt), R Ashwin, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh (vc), Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Amit Mishra, Munaf Patel, Parthiv Patel (wk), Yusuf Pathan, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Manoj Tiwary, Shikhar Dhawan.