India have included uncapped players Rohit Sharma and Pragyan Ojha in the 16-member squad for the three-Test series in Sri Lanka. Yuvraj Singh has been left out, while Gautam Gambhir wins the opener's slot ahead of Wasim Jaffer. Zaheer Khan also returns to the team after injury niggles ruled him out of international action so far this year. With Mahendra Singh Dhoni opting out, the selectors have named two wicketkeepers in Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel. The selection committee also announced the 30 probables for the Champions Trophy in September.
A source in the BCCI said the selectors decided to give Yuvraj"a break" with an eye on the amount of cricket coming up and considering the slim chances of him getting a slot in the final XI for the three Tests in Sri Lanka. "The selectors decided to give him a break, considering the amount of cricket he has played recently and the cricket that is coming up in which he will play a crucial role," the source told Cricinfo. "Also, they felt it would have been difficult to accommodate him in the final XI for the Tests in a line-up that already has Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly. These were the two main factors that were considered in Yuvraj's case." Unlike Dhoni, Yuvraj did not ask for a break, but it was felt that he needed one, the source said.
Yuvraj marked his comeback to the Test team with a 169 against Pakistan in Bangalore last year, but was dropped from the XI after scoring 19 runs in four innings during the Test series in Australia. Yuvraj is also susceptible against spin, another factor that could have gone against him, given the conditions in Sri Lanka.
Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Mohammad Kaif and Ramesh Powar are the other omissions from the Test squad that featured in the home series against South Africa. Harbhajan Singh returns to international cricket after completing his five-match ODI ban for slapping Sreesanth, who wasn't in the reckoning as he's still recovering from a side strain. The squad consists of seven batsmen, two wicketkeepers, four fast bowlers and three spinners.
Part of the winning ICC World Twenty20 side in South Africa, Rohit impressed in the CB Series in Australia earlier this year and continued his form for the Deccan Chargers in the IPL. Ojha, the Hyderabad left-arm spinner, recently earned a call-up to the ODI side. "It's a dream come true. Any cricketer would want and expect to play for the country," Ojha told Cricinfo.
"I didn't particularly think about the Sri Lanka series but I knew if I keep bowling well I would get a chance. No wild celebrations now as I want to perform on the field. I will be concentrating on my flight and changes in pace and will generally try to bowl like I do in the Ranji Trophy."
Gambhir forces his way back into the Test team on the string of impressive performances in limited-overs cricket and domestic tournaments. He replaces Jaffer, who's had a poor run in Tests since the Eden Gardens Test against Pakistan last year, in which he scored a double-century.
Parthiv last played for India in October 2004; since then Karthik and Dhoni have won favour for a spot in the Indian team. Karthik last played the Bangalore Test against Pakistan, which Dhoni had to skip due to an ankle injury. Karthik had played as a specialist opener in Test series in Bangladesh and England last year, and in the home Tests against Pakistan.
Karthik was surprised with his selection. "I didn't know if Dhoni was playing the series or not. It feels great that they have given me a chance." he told Cricinfo. "I don't see this a stop-gap arrangement for Dhoni but will look at this as a great opportunity to perform and prove my credentials.
"Ajantha Mendis will be a tough bowler to pick but it's really exciting challenge to play someone like him. I am confident that if I get a chance I will do my best to perform both in batting and wicketkeeping."
Parthiv was due to lead India A in the Emerging Players Tournament in Australia. Suresh Raina replaces him, while S Badrinath will captain the team. Parthiv had an impressive 2006-07 first-class season, scoring 1103 runs in 13 games at 58.05 as he captained Gujarat to victory in the Ranji Trophy Plate League.
"It's a great opportunity," Parthiv told Cricinfo. "I've been performing really well in the last three domestic seasons. At the back of my mind, there was the possibility of me being picked. I know what it takes to be a Test player."