India’s cricket team may still have a decisive match remaining in their One-Day series with South Africa, but already the thoughts of the team’s selectors have had to turn toward the upcoming four-match Test series. A 16-man squad has been announced for the first two Tests, with the big news being the return of all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in place of veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Harbhajan is currently a part of the India team vying with South Africa in the 50-overs format, and took two wickets on Thursday to help his team level the series at 2-2 going into the final match on Sunday. But the 35-year-old failed to deliver on his return to the Test side after a two-year hiatus this summer, when taking just one wicket at the cost of 90 runs in the opening Test against Sri Lanka.
Jadeja, meanwhile, was dropped for the squads that took on Bangladesh and Sri Lanka this year after a run of poor form. His recall has arrived thanks to a fine start to India’s first-class domestic competition, the Ranji Trophy, where he took 24 wickets and scored 149 runs in to matches.
“Nobody wants to be away from the team,” Jadeja said after his recall, reports Indian broadcaster NDTV. “All the negative talk that has surrounded my exclusion is a concerning thing. I consider myself lucky that the domestic season started as soon as I was dropped and this stint has helped me gain some confidence.
“I should have a simple plan. Whatever shot I want to play I should be able to do it single-mindedly. When I make a decision and bat I have to commit a hundred percent and play the shot. So I was working out small things like these around my thinking.”
There is also a place in the squad for the first two Tests for Ravichandran Ashwin. The spinner suffered a side strain in the first ODI contest with South Africa and will miss the rest of that series. However, India’s chairman of selectors, Sandeep Patil, stated that the 29-year-old, who took 21 wickets during the recent Test series with Sri Lanka, will be fit for the opening Test in Chandigarh, starting on Nov. 5.
India came back to beat Sri Lanka, 2-1, which was their first Test series victory since defeating the West Indies in the last series played on home soil, two years ago. With Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who continues to lead the ODI and Twenty20 sides, having stepped down from the Test team last year, Virat Kohli will assume captaincy duties once again when the Test series gets underway. And the 26-year-old is in fine form with the bat, having scored 138 to fire India to victory in their ODI win on Thursday
Squad for first two Tests: Virat Kohli (captain), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Kannaur Lokesh Rahul, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma
India vs. South Africa Test series schedule (play starts each day at 11 p.m. EDT)
1st Test: Wednesday, Nov. 5 to Sunday, Nov. 8 (Punjab Cricket Association Stadium Mohali, Chandigarh)
2nd Test: Friday, Nov. 13 to Tuesday, Nov. 17 (M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore)
3rd Test: Tuesday, Nov. 24 to Saturday, Nov. 28 (Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Jamtha, Nagpur)