India will be without Virat Kohli
, Rohit Sharma
, Rishabh Pant
, Jasprit Bumrah
and Mohammed Shami
when they take the field for the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur from November 25 to 29. All five have presumably been rested, though the BCCI release that announced the squad on Friday gave no reasons for their exclusion.
Kohli, however, will return for the second Test in Mumbai, which will be played from December 3 to 7, and lead the side. Ajinkya Rahane
will captain India in Kanpur, with Cheteshwar Pujara
named his deputy.
Also out of the squad is the fast bowler Shardul Thakur
, who has been left out of the squad for the T20I series preceding the Tests as well.
It is expected that KL Rahul will open the batting with Mayank Agarwal in Rohit's absence, while Kohli's middle-order slot in the first Test could be contested between Shubman Gill and the uncapped Shreyas Iyer
, who has been part of the red-ball squad in the past but is yet to make his Test debut. Hanuma Vihari
, who was understood to be next in line for a middle-order berth, has been left out of the squad. Vihari's last involvement in a Test match was to help save the Sydney Test in January while batting through injury.
With Pant absent, the experienced Wriddhiman Saha
is in line to play his first Test since India's defeat in Adelaide in December 2020.
The Andhra wicketkeeper-batter KS Bharat
, however, is also part of the squad. Bharat has a solid first-class record behind him: 4283 runs from 78 matches at the average of 37.24, with nine hundreds including a top score of 308 against Goa in February 2015. It was the first triple-ton by a wicketkeeper-batter in the Ranji Trophy. More recently, he enjoyed a breakthrough season in the IPL with Royal Challengers Bangalore, batting mostly at No. 3 and scoring 191 runs at a strike rate of 122.43, including a match-winning 78 not-out against Delhi Capitals
capped off with a last-ball six.
R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will lead the spin attack as usual, with Axar Patel - who made an outstanding debut during the home series against England earlier this year - and the offspinning allrounder Jayant Yadav
in support. Jayant has played four Tests so far - all during the 2016-17 home season - and his return covers for the absence of Washington Sundar, who is yet to fully recover from a finger injury sustained in July, during the early part of the England tour.
India squad for New Zealand Test series: Ajinkya Rahane (capt), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara (vice-capt), Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), KS Bharat (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Prasidh Krishna; Virat Kohli to join squad for second Test and lead the side
GMT 1215 This piece was updated after the BCCI confirmed Vihari's selection for the India A tour of South Africa.