The Indian selectors on Tuesday retained the 16-member squad that featured in the comprehensive 208-run triumph over Bangladesh for the first two test of four-match series against Australia staring from 23 February in Pune. Opening batsman Abhinav Mukund retained his place in the squad, as did Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav and all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
Shikhar Dhawan, who has had to contend with indifferent form during India's home season, expectedly missed out on a berth. The southpaw who had announced himself on the world stage with a sparkling 187 on debut, ironically against the Australians in 2013, had fractured his thumb in the second Test against New Zealand in Kolkata last year, and was not picked for the Tests against England and Bangladesh. A poor ODI series against England didn't also help his cause.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who had sustained a knee injury during the T20I series against England, was not fit for selection, which allowed rookie spinner Kuldeep to retain his place in the team. Mishra was initially picked in the squad for the one-off Test against Bangladesh, but had to make way for Kuldeep in the wake of his injury.
Kuldeep has been in the selection radar for a couple of seasons having troubled a lot of batsmen in domestic cricket with his 'wrong one' or left armer's googly. He had impressive figures of 5/60 for India A against England in the first practice match in Mumbai last month. The Chinaman bowler had been a part of the ODI squad earlier, but is yet to make his India senior debut. However, he may have to wait for that a bit longer, as Jayant Yadav, who had given a good account of himself in the England Test series is expected to be the third spinner after Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, if captain Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble opt for a three-spinner attack.
On the pace-bowling front, Mohammed Shami, who was injured during the England Test series and had suffered bereavement thereafter, continues to be unavailable for selection. It means India will go into the Australia series with the four-member pace attack comprising Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya, which figured in the Test against Bangladesh.
The Pune Test (23-27 February) will be followed by those in Bengaluru (4-8 March), Ranchi (16-20 March) and Dharamshala (25-29 March). India had whitewashed Australia 4-0 in 2013 at home, but Steve Smith's men had won the last Test series in 2014-15, when the two sides met Down Under, Incidentally, that was the last time that the Kohli-led India had lost a Test series, winning against Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh thereafter.
The Australian squad, led by Smith, arrived in Mumbai on Monday ahead of the four-match rubber and will play a three-day warm-up game against an India A led by Pandya at the Brabourne stadium from 16-18 February before proceeding to Pune for the first Test.
Indian squad: Virat Kohli (C), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Karun Nair, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund and Hardik Pandya.