Injured medium-pacer Zaheer Khan failed to make the cut even as the national selectors recalled veteran Delhi batsman Gautam Gambhir as the third opener in India’s 18-man squad for the five-match Test series in England beginning on July 9.
Zaheer picked up a side strain while playing for the Mumbai Indians earlier this month, an injury that ruled him out of the rest of the tournament. Gambhir, meanwhile, used the IPL as a vehicle for his comeback, having made three consecutive half-centuries after a forgettable start to the season.
Sandeep Patil and Co, who huddled here on Wednesday, also recalled the tall Rajasthan medium-pacer Pankan Singh, who was part of the Anil Kumble-led squad that toured in Australia in 2007-08. The strapping bowler did not play a Test then and, except for a stray ODI appearance against Sri Lanka in Harare in 2010, he had by and large been forgotten.
At 29, Pankaj, who has 300 first-class wickets to his credit, is the oldest of India’s seven-man pace attack, which includes Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Ishwar Pandey and Karnataka’s all-rounder Stuart Binny.
It’s a decidedly inexperienced attack. Except Ishant, who has played 55 Tests, other capped bowlers, that are Kumar, Shami and Aaron, have 11 Tests among them collectively. Clearly, the selectors are inclined on backing youth rather than relying on the increasingly brittle body of an ageing Zaheer Khan.
Zaheeer had a decent outing in South Africa and New Zealand last year, as also in 2014, after making a comeback. In those four Tests, Zaheer, looking leaner and fitter, had taken 16 wickets. However, the selectors may not have wanted a repeat of the scenes at Lord’s three years ago when the left-arm pacer had hobbled off during the first Test, clutching his hamstring. India never really recovered from that blow.
In the case of Gambhir, who was dropped from the team in 2012, Team Patil factored in his decent Ranji outing last season, where he scored 578 runs at 48.16, besides his IPL form.
Pankaj Singh’s story, on the other hand, is one of perseverence, of keeping banging on the selectors’ doors despite repeatedly being snubbed. Singh finished with 39 wickets for Rajasthan during Ranji Trophy 2013/14 season and had ended up the second-highest wicket-taker with overall with 43 when Rajasthan clinched the Ranji title in 2010-11. He was also Rajasthan’s highest wicket-taker with 34 when they retained it next season.
Among batsmen, there wasn’t much surprise with the regulars pretty much picking themselves. As for the spinners, the selectors persisted with Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin with Wriddhiman Saha was named as the second wicket-keeper for the long tour.
test squad for england: MS Dhoni (capt), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Ishant Sharma, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron, Wriddhiman Saha, Pa nkaj Singh.