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Test call-up for Pandey

Yuvraj Singh

Calcutta: All-rounder Yuvraj Singh has been dropped from India’s ODI squad owing to his poor performance in South Africa as rookies Ishwar Pandey and Stuart Binny got their maiden call-ups for India’s tour to New Zealand. The one-day series begins from January 19.

Yuvraj, who got out to a second-ball duck the only time he came out to bat in the three-match ODI series against South Africa, was replaced by Stuart, son of former India all-rounder and current national selector Roger Binny.

Stuart, 29, has played 53 first-class matches for Karnataka and scored 2714 runs at an average of 34.79, besides taking 79 wickets.

Madhya Pradesh seamer Pandey, who has been included in both the ODI and Test squads, is a surprise inclusion in the side.

Fit-again pacer Varun Aaron, 24, has made a comeback to the ODI squad replacing Mohit Sharma, who failed to impress in South Africa. If he makes it to the final XI of the five-match ODI series against New Zealand, it would be Aaron’s first 50-over appearance for India after 2011.

“Feels great,” was Aaron’s SMS to The Telegraph on his selection.

Pandey’s inclusion in place of Pragyan Ojha was the only change to the 17-member Test squad for the two-match series against New Zealand, starting February 10 in Auckland.

Interestingly, Ojha did not get a single game in the two-match series against South Africa which India lost 0-1.

Pandey was the leading wicket-taker in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy, with 48 wickets at 21.06, and he has remained effective in the current season as well.

He has 30 wickets at 24.76 in eight games this season, including innings figures of 8 for 84 against Railways in Indore. Pandey bowls in the mid-130s and uses his height to extract good bounce.

The 24-year-old Pandey has played 31 first-class matches, grabbing 131 wickets at an average of 24.43.

While Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli picked themselves after fine performances in South Africa, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have managed to retain the selectors’ faith despite coming a cropper.

Stuart, a medium-pacer and middle-order batsman capable of getting quick runs when needed, has had a decent Ranji season for Karnataka with bat and ball. He had, earlier this year, earned a call-up to the India A squad that toured South Africa. His selection is likely to have been prompted by the need for a pace-bowling all-rounder to add balance to the team in New Zealand conditions.

Aaron played the last of his four ODIs in December 2011, in the home series against West Indies. He had impressed then with his ability to bowl at over 140 kmph regularly but has been plagued by injuries since.

He was left out for the tour of Australia in 2011-12 and, though he returned for the 2012 IPL, he suffered the recurrence of a back injury that kept him away from competitive cricket for 15 months.

Following a change in his bowling action to reduce the stress on his back, Aaron made a comeback in the current Ranji season, and has played five four-day games for Jharkhand since November.

Zaheer Khan would once again spearhead the pace attack in Tests with Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Pandey to support him on the seaming tracks of New Zealand.

The ODI squad also sports a pace-heavy look but the spearhead’s role would be taken over by Ishant as Zaheer will not play in the five-match series.

Yuvraj had a woeful home ODI series against Australia in October, scoring 19 runs in four innings, when he was visibly troubled by the pace of Mitchell Johnson. He couldn't bat himself back into form in the home ODIs against West Indies or on the South Africa tour.

Ojha, the left-arm spinner, is not in the Test squad despite his solid 2013 record: 18 wickets in eight innings at 23.11.

The tour of New Zealand will start with the first ODI in Napier, followed by matches in Hamilton (January 22 and 28), Auckland (January 25) and Wellington (January 31).

The Indians will play a two-day warm-up matches in Whangharei from February 2 followed by the two-match Test series in Auckland (February 6 to 10) and Wellington (February 14 to 18).