Ishant, Gambhir left out for 1st two Tests
Dashing Gautam Gambhir's heroics with the bat on the recent tour of Australia failed to impress the national selectors who today ignored him from India's 14-member squad for the first two cricket Tests against South Africa alongwith injured paceman Ishant Sharma.
Barring Gambhir's non-inclusion, there were no major surprises in the squad announced by BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah after a meeting of the selection committee here.
The left-handed Gambhir, who emerged as the highest run-getter in the tri-series in Australia with an aggregate of 440 runs from 10 matches, was not picked as the selectors preferred to retain Mumbai opener Wasim Jaffer despite his indifferent form in recent times.
The lanky Ishant, who put up a sterling show in Australia, was not considered for selection owing to his toe and finger injuries.
"Ishant has been advised rest for some more time and he was therefore not considered for the first Test," Shah told reporters.
The team, to be captained by Anil Kumble, has two other specialist spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik while R P Singh, S Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan will shoulder the pace bowling responsibilities.
As expected, the four senior pros - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly an VVS Laxman - have been included in the squad with the selectors reposing faith in the experienced campaigners rather than blood youngsters for the home series beginning March 26.
Delhi opener Virender Sehwag, who scored a century in the last Test at Adelaide, has also been retained in the squad and is expected to open the innings with Jaffer.
Shah said that Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh will have to undergo a fitness test in Banaglore on March 21.
"If they fail the fitness test, Dhoni will be replaced by Dinesh Kaarthick and Harbhajan Singh by Piyush Chawla," Shah said.
Yuvraj Singh, who also had some injury concerns, however, passed the fitness test today and was included in the team.
On paceman Zaheer Khan, Shah said that he had still not recovered from his heel injury and has been ruled out for the entire series.
As per the new BCCI policy, chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar did not interact with the mediamen. The BCCI Secretary just read out the names of the players to the waiting mediapersons.
Apart from the five selectors, newly appointed coach Gary Kirsten also attended the meeting which lasted close to two hours.
The South Africans will play three Tests during their tour of India with the first match scheduled to be held in Chennai from March 26-30. The second Test will be held in Ahmedabad from April 3 to 7 while the Green Park stadium in Kanpur will host the third and final match from April 11-15.
India: Anil Kumble (captain), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (vice-captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, R P Singh, S Sreesanth, Murali Kartik.