New Delhi: Virat Kohli returned to lead India against England in the upcoming home Test series while the selectors also recalled all-rounder Hardik Pandya and pacer Ishant Sharma to bolster the squad, announced by the BCCI on Tuesday.
Kohli, who headed back to India on a paternity leave after the Adelaide Test, was named in the 18-man squad along with pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, who missed the final Test in Brisbane against Australia due to an abdominal strain.
The squad was named only for the first two Tests of the four-match series, starting on 5 February in Chennai.
Senior pacer Ishant had missed the Australia tour due to the side strain he suffered during the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the UAE while Pandya only played the ODIs and T20Is Down Under.
TEAM - Virat Kohli (Capt), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya (VC), KL Rahul, Hardik, Rishabh Pant (wk), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Md. Siraj, Shardul Thakur
— BCCI (@BCCI) January 19, 2021
Tamil Nadu paceman T Natarajan was dropped as the selection panel added Axar Patel, a left-arm spinner and useful batsman down the order, to the squad as he would be more effective to counter England on Indian pitches.
The 26-year-old Patel is yet to make his Test debut while he last played for India in T20Is in February 2018 against South Africa. He has also played 38 ODI matches.
He is an apt replacement for Ravindra Jadeja.
Ajinkya Rahane, who led India in three Tests in Australia after Kohli's departure, was named as the vice-captain.
Expectedly, the selection panel retained youngster Shubman Gill and Washington Sundar, rewarding for their excellent performance in Australia.
Pacers Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, whose all-round ability helped India immensely in Brisbane, also kept their places along with Mayank Agarwal, who struggled for runs.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who missed the Brisbane Test due to back injury, has also been named in the line-up as he is expected to recover by the time England land in India.
Wriddhiman Saha is the second wicket-keeper in the squad along with Rishabh Pant, whose gritty 89 not out shaped India's three-wicket win in Brisbane.
The second Test will also be played in Chennai (13-17 February Chennai) while Ahmedabad will host the third (24-28 February) and fourth Test (4-8 March).
The four-Test series will be followed by a five-match T20I series and three-match ODI rubber that will conclude on 28 March in Pune.
KS Bharat, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Shahbaz Nadeem, Rahul Chahar and Priyank Panchal have been named as standby players.
Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma, Shubhman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar and Axar Patel.
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When your skills are found wanting as much as England’s were, or as superior as India’s were, there’s only so much blame you can rest on the playing conditions.
Debutant Patel made full use of favourable conditions to bag 5 for 60 in 21 overs while Ashwin finished with a match-haul of eight wickets, not to forget his classy hundred with the bat, demolishing England for a paltry 164 on the fourth day in pursuit of an impossible 482-run target.
India lost the first Test by 227 runs on a deck that didn't have anything for bowlers while the fresh pitch, with a darker and drier look, promises to be a spinners' paradise in the game starting Saturday.