Kohli to lead India for Sri Lanka tour, Amit Mishra back in team
The BCCI’s national selection committee on Thursday made just one change to the Indian Test team for the upcoming three-Test tour of Sri Lanka, giving 32-year-old leg-spinner Amit Mishra a Test cap after four years.
Mishra, whose last of his 13 Test matches was against England at The Oval in 2011, earned a recall to the squad as a replacement for Karn Sharma, who fractured a finger in his left hand before the side's recently concluded tour of Zimbabwe.
After returning to the Test team after two years in the one-off match against Bangladesh, Harbhajan Singh will continue his comeback in the five-day format in the series beginning on August 12. Singh and Mishra will act as support cast for lead spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
Despite new Test skipper Virat Kohli's backing of pace to get the job done even on sub-continent pitches --- three pacers figured in the drawn game in Fatullah --- Sri Lanka has always favoured spinners. Pakistan leggie Yasir Shah’s brilliant performance in the series win over the hosts would only have convinced chief selector Sandeep Patil and company.
Patil emphasised that fitness and form rather than age --- Mishra is 32 and Harbhajan 35 --- would influence the thinking of his panel. "The policy which the selectors have adopted in the last three years is to go by fitness and form…Karn has still not recovered from the injury. It is the same with Mohammed Shami," Patil told a media conference. Shami has not played since he underwent knee surgery following the World Cup.
“Mishra was always in the scheme of things,” he said. The leg-spinner though has been playing ODIs, playing his last game in October. However, his Test career never took off, and the 43 wickets in 13 games at an average of 43.30 show he has not grabbed the few chances that came his way.
Kohli and Ravi Shastri will continue as captain and team director, respectively. Young Karnataka opener KL Rahul, who missed the Bangladesh Test because of dengue, is back as expected, especially after scoring a fine 96 in the first India A ‘Test’ against Australia A in Chennai on Wednesday.
Patil insisted that the squad --- seven batsmen, a lone wicketkeeper, four pacers and three spinners --- was chosen keeping the Sri Lanka conditions in mind. "Our job is to give the right combination," was his comment when asked about Kohli’s focus on pace over spin.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja has not been included in the team. On the possible inclusion of former opener Gautam Gambhir, Patil told a news conference, "No, he was not discussed."
While Kohli has insisted on sheer pace doing the damage, MS Dhoni was unsparing about Umesh Yadav’s poor spell following the last ODI in Bangladesh, where India lost the series 1-2. Dhoni’s insistence on line and length rather than speed and waywardness seem to be sending some message. Patil said the senior leader had every right to air his opinion in public while acknowledging that change of guard will bring a different outlook. "Dhoni is entitled to his views," Patil said.
The selection committee could not escape questions about the recent verdict of the Justice Lodha committee suspending IPL franchises Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings and the subsequent formation of a BCCI working group to study the ruling.
"Teams are not terminated, just suspended. We have formed a committee to look into it," said BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur.
India team for Sri Lanka Tests: Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul, Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mishra, Varun Aaron, Harbhajan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav.