|Sachin (top) and Kaif
Bangalore: Ending weeks of speculation over the nature of Sachin Tendulkar's injury, the Mumbai-maestro was on Friday included in the 15-member Indian squad for the first two Tests against Australia. Tendulkar, who was suffering from a tennis elbow, and was doubtful for the first Test, was included after national selectors received a medical report stating the star was 'progressing well'.
He will, however, have to pass a fitness test before taking the field in the high-profile series beginning here on Wednesday.
Returning to the squad is Mohammed Kaif. Zaheer Khan also made the cut.
[That Kaif is set to be brought back, over three years after he played in his last Test, was reported by The Telegraph in Friday's edition.]
'Tendulkar's fitness will be monitored on a day-to-day basis. His position will be ascertained, and depending on his fitness before the match, he will be considered for selection,' Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary S.K. Nair said after a two-hour meeting of the selection committee, which was also attended by captain Sourv Ganguly and coach John Wright.
On Tendulkar's inclusion, Nair explained: 'We have got a medical report that he is progressing well. He is undergoing rehabilitation following the advice from board doctor Anant Joshi and team physio Andrew Leipus.'
Missing out on a berth in the squad was left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra, whose fitness is once again in doubt.
There were no new faces in the squad with the selectors reposing faith in Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag, both of whom posted centuries in the practice match here for India Senior against India A on Friday to break a prolonged lean patch.
Zaheer, who did well in the Irani Trophy and in the practice match here, missed the last two Tests against Pakistan as well as India's three one-day engagements, including the Champions Trophy, due to a hamstring injury.
The 23-year-old Kaif, a one-day specialist who has played just four Tests, earned a recall on the strength of his recent good form with the bat. Nair also put to rest speculation about the opening combination, saying Akash Chopra and Sehwag would do the job.
The team has just one specialist 'keeper in Parthiv Patel who was overlooked in India's recent one-day tournaments. But the Baroda stumper's good show both in front and behind the stumps in domestic outings helped him get the selectors' nod ahead of Tamil Nadu 'keeper Dinesh Karthik, who earned his India cap during the NatWest Challenge last month.
Left-arm spinner Murali Kartik made another comeback to boost the spin department headed by Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.
Ajit Agarkar comes in as the third seamer following his convincing show for Mumbai in the ongoing tour match against the Australians.
Nair saidthe selectors deliberated on the performances of batsmen Dheeraj Jadhav, Venugopal Rao and S. Sriram.
The selections were made by the newly-formed committee headed by Kiran More and comprising Pranab Roy, V.B. Chandrasekar, Gopal Sharma and Yashpal Sharma.
The committee, formed on Thursday, sat down to first 'select' the skipper before finalising the squad. After unanimously deciding to retain Ganguly, the committee invited him to attend the meeting alongwith the coach. All the players have been asked to report in Bangalore on Monday, two days before the start of the first Test.
The remaining three Tests would be played at Chennai (October 14-18), Nagpur (October 26-30) and Mumbai (November 3-7).
Virender Sehwag, Akash Chopra, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Sourav Ganguly (captain), Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Parthiv Patel, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Murali Kartik.
Best possible team: Sourav
Captain Sourav Ganguly said the team picked was the best possible at this stage. 'This is the best possible team at this stage,' he said, adding, 'It's disappointing to leave out Ashish Nehra though,' but indicated that Agarkar got the nod ahead of Nehra as his performance against Australia in the away series was good.