Chopra, Salvi in Test squad; Bangar out
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Chopra, Salvi in Test squad; Bangar out

Opener Akash Chopra and pacers Aavishkar Salvi and Laxmipathy have been included in 14-member team for first Test against Kiwis.

india Updated: Oct 05, 2003 00:45 IST

Delhi player Akash Chopra was on Saturday rewarded for his consistent performance as the national selectors named him in the 14-member squad for the first cricket Test against New Zealand in a bid to find a long-term solution to India's opening blues.

All-rounder Sanjay Bangar, who opened the innings in the last seven Test matches has been dropped while pacemen Laxmipathy Balaji and Aavishkar Salvi were the two other relative newcomers included in the squad for the first Test of the two-match series, starting in Ahmedabad on October 8.

Yuvraj Singh, who had a disappointing stint with the English county Yorkshire and regarded as a one-day specialist, has been surprisingly inducted in the Test squad, announced by Cricket Board secretary S K Nair.

Mumbai leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule has also found a place in the team while state-mate Ajit Agarkar, who was a member of the Indian side that toured New Zealand late last year, has been omitted.

The selection committee meeting which continued for more than two hours and attended by new chairman Syed Kirmani alongwith Kirti Azad, Kiran More, Sanjay Jagdale and Pranab Roy, also decided to retain Parthiv Patel as the wicketkeeper.

The 26-year-old Chopra, who has been a prolific scorer in domestic cricket, drew the attention of the selectors by coming up with two fine knocks against the Kiwis in the two three-day warm-up games.

His superb century for the Board President's XI in the rain-marred first match at Visakhapatnam and a classy 66 for India 'A' here yesterday tilted the scale in his favour ahead of Shiv Sunder Das, Sadgopan Ramesh and Gautam Gambhir.

Chopra's inclusion would mean a new opening combination as he is almost certain to start the innings with his Ranji team captain Virender Sehwag. Bangar and Sehwag had opened the innings in the last seven Tests.

Tamil Nadu pacer Balaji and 21-year-old Mumbai speedster Salvi made it to the side largely due to the injuries to pace spearhead Javagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra, both of whom had played a crucial role in India's progress to the World Cup final in South Africa earlier this year.

While the veteran fast bowler from Karnataka opted out of the Test series because of a troubled knee, Nehra is still nursing an ankle injury, sustained during the World Cup.

The squad, captained by Sourav Ganguly, has three specialist fast bowlers and and an equal number of spinners.

Harbhajan Singh, who has fully recovered from his finger injury, and leg-spinner Anil Kumble will handle the spin department alongwith 30-year-old Bahutule, who is making a comeback of sorts to the national team. The Mumbai leg-spinner, who is also a useful lower-order batsman, has played just two Test matches for India so far.

"We decided to blood a new player as the opening batsman this season. Akash Chopra has performed well in both the lead-up games to the Test match. We believe he can carry on the good work," Kirmani said after the announcement of the team.

"We had a long discussion on the choice of the third spinner. We decided to give Sairaj Bahutule the nod on the basis of his all-round ability," he said.

The selectors also decided to persist with teenaged wicket-keeper Patel, who has already donned the gloves in seven Test matches.

The team for the second Test, beginning in Mohali on October 16, would be picked in Ahmedabad on October 12.

Squad: Sourav Ganguly (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid (vice-capt), V V S Laxman, Akash Chopra, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Laxmipathy Balaji, Aavishkar Salvi, Sairaj Bahutule, Yuvraj Singh.

First Published: Oct 04, 2003 15:36 IST