The five-member selection committee chose the 15-member Indian test squad for the upcoming first two of five test matches against Alastair Cook’s England. This will be England’s first tour to India after 2012, a series they won 2-1, one of the rare home defeats for an Indian test team at home in the last decade.
The first match will be played in Rajkot, Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara’s home ground.
Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, R. Ashwin, R. Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Gautam Gambhir, Mohammad Shami, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Karun Nair, Murali Vijay, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Jayant Yadav
The team isn’t exactly going in with its best-possible batting line-up against the Englishmen. Their line-up against New Zealand was perhaps the most balanced – but Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan (who wouldn’t have been selected in the first XI anyway) aren’t part of the squad. This is a huge blow, especially given Rohit’s consistent performance in the tests against New Zealand, and Rahul’s form over the last year. All three of them are injured, and Rohit may reportedly undergo surgery for his hamstring injury during the 5th ODI against the Kiwis at Vizag. He lent stability and a buffer to the batting line-up at 6, which means that Hardik Pandya will almost certainly be picked for his test debut, and R. Ashwin will be given more responsibility with the bat. Saha’s good form will bolster a second-string middle order.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar wasn’t picked because he hadn’t played a first-class match after recovering from his injury. This silly technicality will mean that India misses perhaps their most adaptable bowler, and versatility in their pace line-up. But India’s spin line-up is perhaps all that matters – the best in years, what with Ashwin’s record-breaking madness, Jadeja’s pinpoint accuracy and Mishra’s guile and skill. The three put together will give nightmares to a brittle England line-up recently exposed by Bangladesh’s spinners in Dhaka. Jayant Yadav won’t get a game unless Ashwin or Jadeja gets injured, and Yadav is likely to partner Shami in the seam department in the first match, irrespective of Ishant Sharma’s fitness. Now that Pandya has been given the nod (especially for his pace), it will be five batsmen, 1 seaming all-rounder, 1 keeper, 2 spinners (both can bat) and 2 frontline seamers. That’s the balance Kohli is likely to go in for – a forced strategy because of Rohit’s injury, which will fast-track Pandya’s all-round abilities to the fore in the longest form of the game.
India will have wanted KL Rahul at the top, but it will now be old warhorse Gautam Gambhir, who retained his spot after a spunky performance against the Kiwis in the third test, and Murali Vijay opening the batting. There will be no change in the top order. Karun Nair has been chosen as the extra batsman, just in case Pandya performs terribly and gets dropped, and if Kohli has to revert back to his 6-batsman strategy.
Likely 11 for RAJKOT:
Vijay, Gambhir, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Pandya, Saha, Ashwin, Jadeja, Shami, Yadav/Mishra
Mishra may not get the nod despite some terrific performances, unless Kohli decides to go in with just one frontline pacer (Shami), Pandya and three spinners to boot. A likely scenario, this, given England’s recent history against spin.