All-rounder Ben Stokes and fast bowler Jofra Archer have been rested for England’s two-test tour of Sri Lanka in January, but both will return for the series in India the following month.
The duo were omitted from the 16-player squad and seven travelling reserves named by the England selectors on Friday.
All-rounder Moeen Ali, 33, was included in the test squad for the first time since 2019 while wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow is recalled after being dropped a year ago.
Essex batsman Dan Lawrence has received a first call-up.
England’s selectors are acutely aware of the impact on players of bio-secure bubbles and with a demanding year ahead, are making sure they protect their key performers.
“There must be room for sensible rotation in and out of the squad,” chief selector Ed Smith told reporters.
“Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer and those who are multi-format players will have blocks of rest. It’s impossible for people to go straight through six tests.”
Stokes is mourning the death of his father Ged who died of brain cancer this week.
Smith said it was an opportunity for other players such as Bairstow who is keen to re-establish himself in the test squad.
“Jonny has missed out on selection over the last year but this felt like the right moment with his pedigree playing spin in Asia, it’s the perfect moment for him.”
As well as Stokes and Archer, Surrey batsman Rory Burns will miss the Sri Lanka tour as his wife is expecting their first child in January.
Ollie Pope will join the squad and continue his rehab from a shoulder injury in readiness for the four-match test series against India starting in February.
England depart for Sri Lanka on Jan. 2 and will play both tests at the Galle International Cricket Stadium, the first starting on Jan. 14 and the second on Jan. 22. Both tests will be behind closed doors.
England will be subject to quarantine in Hambantota on arrival in Sri Lanka. During that period, the players will be able to train for five days from Jan. 5-9 at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium.
The series was called off in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic with England already in Sri Lanka.
England squad for Sri Lanka tests:
Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Reserves: James Bracey, Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi.