After an inexperienced squad recorded a morale-boosting One-Day series win in Zimbabwe, India’s Test team will be back in action when heading to Sri Lanka for a three-match series next month. It has been a challenging 2015 so far for India, having completed a Test series defeat in Australia before relinquishing their World Cup title to the same opponents in March. Worse was then to come when India suffered an ignominious ODI series defeat in Bangladesh.
Along the way, there has been plenty of fierce debate about the merits of certain team selections. And that has not changed following the announcement of the squad to head to Sri Lanka. Notably, the selectors ignored criticism from ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni following the tour of Bangladesh that there was too much concentration on pace bowlers. Instead they appeared to fully back the wishes of the man who replaced Dhoni as Test captain at the end of last year, Virat Kohli.
“I am not talking about what Mahendra Singh Dhoni has said,” chairman of the selection committee Sandeep Patil said, reports The Times of India. “But we are always trying to get a proper balance. And the wicket in Sri Lanka is such that we felt this is the best possible bowling combination. We all selectors felt we can go ahead with it."
“Captain has all the right to make a comment and we have no objection to that. It is up to BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] to react to that. MS Dhoni is one of the best leaders that we have seen and he has all the right to make comments regarding bowlers.”
The selection of the spinners in the squad has also raised an eyebrow or two. As well as 35-year-old Harbhajan Singh, who made his Test return after a two-year absence in one-off match with Bangladesh last month, there is a place for 32-year-old Amit Mishra. While Mishra has not played since India’s tour of England four years ago, Patil suggested that fellow leg-spinner Yasir Shah’s success in Pakistan’s recent Test series win in Sri Lanka played a part in the decision to bring him back.
“Amit Mishra was always in our scheme of things,” he said. “Our job is to give them the best 15 players. Why A was picked and why B was not picked is not what we get into. Amit was part of our thinking looking at Sri Lankan conditions and how they played leg-spinners.”
Also of note was the exclusion of all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina, who had been mainstays under Dhoni but are now on the outside looking in under the new regime. Kohli will be heading into his first Test series as captain, and it has been confirmed that he will turn out for an India A side in their unofficial second Test against Australia A next week in an attempt to get up to speed. Kohli was one of the experienced figures not to make the trip to Zimbabwe for a three-match ODI series and two Twenty20 Internationals.
India Test squad for Sri Lanka series
Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Varun Aaron.
India vs. Sri Lanka Test schedule (each day’s play due to start at 12.30 a.m. EDT)
1st Test: Wednesday, Aug. 12 - Sunday August 16 (Galle International Stadium, Galle)
2nd Test: Thursday, Aug. 20 - Monday, Aug. 24 (P Sara Oval, Colombo)
3rd Test: Friday, Aug. 28 - Tuesday, Sep. 1 (Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo)