MUMBAI (TIP): Rohit Sharma, who is yet to make his Test debut, has made a comeback to the squad selected for the two Tests against West Indies. Ravindra Jadeja missed out because of a shoulder strain, creating an opening for the third spinner that was filled by legspinner Amit Mishra.
The surprise, however, was that Zaheer Khan didn’t make it to the four-man pace unit, while Ishant Sharma retained his place. Umesh Yadav returned after a back injury had forced him out of the Australia series, and Mohammed Shami was the new inclusion. After spending the off season training in France and coming back fitter, Zaheer took match hauls of five wickets in successive first-class matches against West Indies A and Haryana.
Dropped during the England series last year, Zaheer was expected to make it back into the squad. He has not, but the selectors are still looking at him as a prospect for the South Africa tour. The selectors debated whether to bring him back immediately or give him more match time in domestic cricket. The eventual consensus was that he needed more overs under his belt before coming back to Test cricket. “He is very much a part of the plans for South Africa,” the source said. Rohit made his way back into the squad with consistent performances at the top of the order in ODIs, and could even be used as a back-up opener should the need arise.
As it stands, he and his Mumbai team-mate Ajinkya Rahane will compete for the middle-order vacancy that arises because of the absence of Jadeja, who has been advised two weeks’ rest. Suresh Raina, who was part of the previous Test squad, was dropped. Harbhajan Singh and Ashok Dinda were also dropped. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the main spinners – R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha – and other batsmen retained their places. A big matter of debate will be the retention of Ishant, whose results in international cricket have been ordinary of late.
To go with the recent hidings in one-day cricket, Ishant last took more than three wickets in a Test innings more than two years ago, at Lord’s in July 2011. His overall average of 38 is uninspiring, and since that Lord’s Test every wicket he has taken has cost India 60 runs. Squad: MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Ajinkya Rahane, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma.