Calcutta: The national selectors on Sunday excluded Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan for the Nagpur Test against England. Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla has earned a recall while all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and fast bowler Parvinder Awana of Delhi have been included in the squad.
The fourth and final Test begins on Thursday.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar felt both Harbhajan and Yuvraj have been made scapegoats.
“If you ask me, Zaheer’s exclusion was expected but I believe that Yuvraj and Harbhajan have been made scapegoats,” Gavaskar told a TV channel.
“If you look at Harbhajan’s performance in Mumbai, he got to bowl 21 overs, and also got two wickets. If India lost in Mumbai, it was due to a collective failure. It would be unfair to hold him responsible.
“Yuvraj also got into the 30s... If you want to drop them then why not some of the others who have scored less! Both Yuvraj and Harbhajan are soft targets,” Gavaskar said.
He also said that there was no alternative to Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
“A captain is as good as his team. I don’t think we have any alternative to Dhoni at the moment. If you want to change the captain for the heck of it, then it’s different…”
The five national selectors were locked in a meeting with Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher for close to two hours in the afternoon.
Board secretary Sanjay Jagdale, who is also the convenor of the committee, refused to term Zaheer’s exclusion as dropped or rested. “I don’t want to use any such language… I won’t comment on selection matters,” he said.
“Nobody is happy when the team lose… We are looking into it and working on it.”
Dhoni had earlier confirmed at the press conference that there were no fitness issues involved with Zaheer.
Zaheer’s is the biggest fall. This is the first time he has been dropped from the Test side after his rousing comeback in 2006-07. He has taken 15 wickets in eight Tests in 2012 at a strike rate of 98 balls per wicket.
In the current series, he has taken four scalps at a strike rate of 133.
Moreover, his fielding has been below par for some time. His replacement, Awana, took 5 for 81 against Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy match a day before the selection meeting. Awana has taken 21 Ranji wickets, at an average of 21.57, this season.
Awana and Jadeja also made it to the T20 side that will play two matches against India. Uttar Pradesh all-rounder Bhuvneshwar Kumar joined them in place of the injured Irfan Pathan.
Virender Sehwag and Zaheer, left out of T20 squad, were unavailable for reasons the BCCI didn’t specify. Ajinkya Rahane took Sehwag’s place. Harbhajan has been dropped for T20s as well.
Bengal’s Ashok Dinda has been included in the Test and T20 squads.
Manoj Tiwary has retained his berth in the T20 side. However, there is a question mark over his availability. He injured his back during Bengal’s Ranji Trophy match against Saurashtra on Sunday and is likely to be sidelined for sometime.
Awana, who made 74 on Sunday, said he was delighted at the call.
“I was batting on 42 when the 12th man came in and gave me the news. It was such a relief that I changed my gears immediately out of sheer joy,” said Awana.
The 26-year-old said that he was expecting a call-up sooner or later.
“Since I had back-to-back five-wicket hauls and I have been taking wickets, I felt there was an outside chance... It's only that you don't know till you officially hear it."
“I knew that my good performances in the Ranji Trophy won’t go in vain. It's serious first-class cricket.
“Wearing the India A jersey also made me realise what is expected at this level. I don't want to try anything exceptional and stick to what I have been doing well so far,” said the soft-spoken pacer.