Prithvi Shaw back in the T20I squad for the series against New Zealand, and inclusion of Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan in the Test squad for the first two Tests against Australia, headlined the first meeting of the new-look Chetan Sharma selection panel which convened virtually on Friday. As expected, despite Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli making themselves available for T20 selection, they were ignored for the series against New Zealand.
The new-look selection panel headed by Sharma and including Shiv Sundar Das, Subroto Banerjee, Salil Ankola and S Sharath met on Friday at the conclusion of the fifth round of Ranji Trophy matches. While most of the Test squad picked itself, there were a few decisions to deliberate on especially with regards to the wicketkeeper slot as Rishbah Pant is unavailable post his accident.
While KS Bharat has been part of the squad since the series against New Zealand in 2021, with Pant not in the mix, the committee handed Kishan a maiden call-up to the Test squad. Although Bharat has established a name for himself as a reliable batsman which compliments his excellent glove work, the selectors reckon Kishan is more of a like-for-like replacement for Pant. The fact that he is a left-hander and can take the attack to the spinners also seems to have played a role in his inclusion ahead of Railways’ wicketkeeper Upendra Yadav who has been part of India A squads.
Regarding the three openers, it is understood that the selectors have decided to back KL Rahul for the time being. Despite his impressive returns in the ODIs, Rahul hasn’t been able to bring consistency to his game in Tests. His struggles continued in two Tests in Bangladesh, where he also captained the side in Rohit Sharma’s absence.
With Shubman Gill already making a strong bid for a regular place in the XI post a century in the first Test against Bangladesh, pressure has been mounting on Rahul. To make it more complicated, back-up opener Abhimanyu Easwaran too has been in red hot form, scoring five consecutive centuries on the trot in domestic games. However, the selectors have chosen to go with Rahul’s experience for the first two Tests.
Meanwhile, as reported, Jasprit Bumrah has failed to make the cut in all the three squads because of a back injury. The pacer who has been advised rest is expected to start bowling only by the time the first Test starts in Nagpur on February 9. In case he is able to meet the workload, Bumrah will be considered for selection for the last two Tests in Dharamshala and Ahmedabad.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja who has been sidelined for the past few months after undergoing a knee surgery has been included in the Test squad. But his inclusion is subject to clearing fitness tests. It is understood that the southpaw has been told to play Saurashtra’s last-round Ranji Trophy match against Tamil Nadu starting in Chennai on January 24.
One player who unfortunately misses out is Mumbai’s Sarfaraz Khan. He made 928 and 982 runs in the last two Ranji seasons — with the last being the highest for any batter last edition — and has scored 431 runs so far in the ongoing season. But with Pant not in the mix, the selectors have gone with Suryakumar Yadav who also happens to be a good player of spin. Suryakumar’s inclusion in the Test squad further establishes his growing stature in the national team and it is understood that he has been picked only as a back-up option.
Shaw gets call-up
As India entered a new T20 era under Hardik Pandya’s captaincy, the continuous omission of Shaw was a big talking point. And after the opener smashed a career best 379 in the Ranji match against Assam this week, the selectors have included him in the T20I squad.
With his aggressive play and an incredible strike-rate of 151.7 in T20s, Shaw can help India overcome their powerplay struggles at the top. Although India still have Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Kishan in the T20I squad, it would be interesting to see how they go about Shaw who has been sidelined for different reasons.
Rahul and Axar Patel were not considered for the ODIs and T20Is against New Zealand because of personal commitments. India are scheduled to play three ODIs and as many T20Is against New Zealand and four Tests against Australia. A 3-0 series win against Australia will put India in the final of the World Test Championship for the second consecutive time.