The Indian selectors on Monday kept faith with spiffy Mumbai opener Wasim Jaffer and dashing middle-order batsman Yuvraj Singh for the first two Tests of the upcoming three-Test home series against South Africa as they retained the bulk of the squad that competed so admirably against Australia in the recent series Down Under.
While Ishant Sharma has been ruled out of the first Test as a precautionary measure – he is nursing an inflamed toe besides a finger injury, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, suffering from a hamstring injury, has retained his place in the 14-member squad, subject to him undergoing a fitness test in Bangalore on March 21. Harbhajan was supposed to undergo the test here on Sunday itself along with Yuvraj but the offspinner failed to turn up.
Yuvraj reached here on Monday morning and was put through the motions by Paul Chapman and Paul Close before being declared fit nut Harbhajan was yet to arrive.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has also been asked to report for the fitness test on March 21 to assess the condition of his sprained finger.
Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla and Dinesh Karthik have been named as standbyes for Harbhajan, Murali Kartik and Dhoni should they come up short in the test. Railways left-arm spinner Kartik was drafted into the side as the third-spinner, but fate had different plans for him. The luckless left-arm spinner suffered a cruel injury during Central Zone’s Deodhar Trophy game against North here on Monday. While fetching the ball from the boundary, Kartik landed on the rope and badly sprained and twisted his ankle. The injury looked pretty horrifying and the spinner lay prostrate on the ground for a good ten minutes before he was carried to the dressing room and then to the hospital for an x-ray and MRI scan.
It has been reliably learnt that the severity of his injury will be diagnosed within the next 24 hours and has been asked to report to the National Cricket Academy on Tuesday morning, where his condition will be assessed.
RP Singh, back from a hamstring injury, will spearhead India’s bowling attack, with Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan to provide support in the pace department. A question mark also hangs over Ishant’s availability for the second Test if BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah is to be believed.
Speaking to the mediapersons after a two-hour long meeting attended by captain Anil Kumble, coach Gary Kirsten, and the five selectors, Shah said: “Ishant has been advised rest for the first Test. He will have a fitness test later to decide whether he will be available for the second Test or not.”
Shah’s conference, as is now the wont, lasted for a mere five minutes before he left in a hurry. without fully answering the questions of journalists who were gathered in Bangalore.
Virender Sehwag will partner Jaffer as the other opener, while the big guns – Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman will buttress the middle- order. The first Test begins in Chennai on March 26.
The squad: Anil Kumble (captain) Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Sreesanth, RP Singh.
Standbyes: Piyush Chawla, Dinesh Karthik