The Indian selectors have named a 15-man squad for the three-Test home series to be played against New Zealand. While all the 15 players were part of the squad that were sent to West Indies, India have dropped two other players who also featured on that tour – all-rounder Stuart Binny and pacer Shardul Thakur. They were part of the 17-man squad that toured the Windies. Binny and Thakur featured in the tour match against WICB President's XI. The all-rounder later was also part of T20 matches, but Thakur was sent to join the India A in Australia.
As expected, India have retained all the three openers in Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul. The opening slots have been like a merry-go-round of late with Vijay, Dhawan and Rahul all taking turns, and someone or the other finding themselves injured. M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan opened in the first Test in West Indies. But, when Vijay got injured for the second match, Rahul came in and smashed a brilliant 158 at Kingston in Jamaica. And so, when Vijay was fit for the third Test, India stuck to the Rahul-Dhawan combination. But, with Dhawan struggling for form, India brought back Vijay to join Rahul at the top, but the match was ruined due to rain.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who was dropped during the course of the Windies series, retains his place on the back of stupendous Duleep Trophy performances. His last two knocks in the tournament have been 166 and 256 not out. The series and the long home season will be extremely crucial for Pujara as he has struggled for form of late. His recent success in domestic cricket would however ensure that he gets a chance to bat at number three for a start. Again, Pujara will be battling with Rohit Sharma for a batting spot in case India decide to play only five bowlers.
Interestingly, Rohit has been named in the Mumbai squad for a tour game against the Kiwis, to be played in Delhi from September 16. The other batsmen in the squad are skipper Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha. In the bowling department, India have chosen three spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra, and four pacers -- Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
India and New Zealand will feature in three Tests, which will kick off the long season for the hosts. The first match will be held in Kanpur from September 22, while the second and third Tests will be held in Kolkata and Indore from September 30-October 4 and October 8-12 respectively.
The complete squad: Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, M Vijay, Umesh Yadav
--By A Cricket Correspondent