India have dropped Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh for the Nagpur Test. Delhi fast bowler Parvinder Awana and Saurashtra allrounder Ravindra Jadeja have received their first call-ups, and legspinner Piyush Chawla replaced Harbhajan.
Zaheer's is the biggest fall. This is the first time he has been dropped from the Test side after his rousing comeback in 2006-07. He has taken 15 wickets in eight Tests in 2012 at a strike rate of 98 balls per wicket. In this series, he has taken four scalps at a strike rate of 133. Moreover, his fielding has been below par for some time. His replacement, Awana, took 5 for 81 against Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy match a day before the selection meeting. Reputed to be brisk, Awana has taken 21 Ranji wickets at an average of 21.57 this season.
Yuvraj, called back after a double-century in the Duleep Trophy was deemed enough to prove his fitness, did not take his chance either. He scored 125 runs in five innings in the series. He has now played 40 Tests over various comebacks for three centuries and an average of 33.92.
Yuvraj's replacement, Jadeja, recently scored his third first-class triple-century in 13 months. He was dropped from India's limited-overs squads earlier this year, but the two triples in one month this season and 18 Ranji wickets at 23.72 have put him ahead of Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary in the queue for a middle-order slot. Jadeja told PTI he had hoped to get his chance after his run in domestic cricket: "I have proved my ability to stay at wicket for a long time, which is necessary while playing Test cricket, and I was hoping after making two triple centuries I would be selected for Test cricket."
Even as the squad was being debated, Tiwary was busy rescuing Bengal with 55 out of a score of 112 against Jadeja's Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy. Four of Bengal's wickets, though, fell to Jadeja. Tiwary retired-hurt with a pulled muscle, but that happened after the squad was announced.
Harbhajan was recalled for the Tests without any improvement shown in domestic cricket, but a lacklustre show in Mumbai means he will be stuck on 99 Tests for a while. Not that his replacement, Chawla, has set the domestic scene on fire, with nine wickets at an average of 48.33.
Awana and Jadeja made it to the T20 side too. Uttar Pradesh allrounder Bhuvneshwar Kumar joined them in place of the injured Irfan Pathan. Virender Sehwag and Zaheer, left out of T20 squad, were unavailable for reasons the BCCI didn't state. Ajinkya Rahane took Sehwag's place. Harbhajan has been dropped for T20s as well.
Squad for Nagpur Test: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, M Vijay, Parvinder Awana.
Squad for T20Is: MS Dhoni (capt &wk), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Manoj Tiwary, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Parvinder Awana
By Sidharth Monga
This selection should drive home what a bad state Indian cricket is in. Piyush Chawla's bowling averages over the last three first-class seasons tell you all you need to know about the reserves: 48.33 this season, 40.61 in 2011-12 and 41.04 in 2010-11. He was picked for the Nagpur Test against England despite that. No wonder Harbhajan Singh came back into the side without taking wickets at domestic level. The spin cupboard is bare, and the choice was between Amit Mishra and Chawla. The selectors overlooked Mishra, who at least has better stats than Chawla.
There are better options in the fast-bowling department, but they are all injured. Most noteworthy among them are Umesh Yadav, Praveen Kumar and Sreesanth. Parvinder Awana, reputed to be a quick bowler, has had a decent season and looks a good pick with others unavailable. If the pitch in Nagpur is not a raging turner, at least one out of Awana and Ashok Dinda should debut.
Ravindra Jadeja's selection seems driven by numbers alone. His two triple-centuries this season, to go with one in 2011-12, have pushed him ahead of two specialist batsmen, Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary, who have been on the fringes for a long time. It could also be Jadeja's left-arm spin, something that was supposed to be in Yuvraj Singh's favour when he jumped the queue. The problem with this selection, on the evidence of what we have seen in international cricket, is that Jadeja is neither a top-six batsman nor a top-four bowler.