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World Test Championship: Hardik Pandya left out, Jadeja back in squad

The WTC final will be played in Southampton from June 18 to 22 while the series against England begins August 4 in Nottingham
Hardik Pandya.
Hardik Pandya.
File photo

Our Bureau   |   Calcutta   |   Published 08.05.21, 03:14 AM

India have left out all-rounder Hardik Pandya and wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav from the 20-member squad for the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand and the subsequent five-Test series in England.

The WTC final will be played in Southampton from June 18 to 22 while the Test series against England begins August 4 in Nottingham. The five-match series ends on September 14 in Manchester.

The Virat Kohli-led squad has 24 players, including the standby list comprising Bengal opener Abhimanyu Easwaran, and three fast bowlers — rookies Avesh Khan and Arzan Nagwaswalla, besides Prasidh Krishna.

India has been put on the UK’s “red list” — which bans entry — because of the raging pandemic in the country but the International Cricket Council is in talks with the authorities concerned for smooth passage of the cricketers and support staff. The squad is likely to depart on June 2.

Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja and Hanuma Vihari return to the squad after missing the recent home Tests against England because of their respective injuries sustained in Australia.

That Hardik would miss the bus was mentioned in Friday’s edition of The Telegraph. The all-rounder’s workload has been under scrutiny since a back surgery in 2018 and he hasn’t bowled regularly in the ODIs. He also nursed a shoulder niggle during IPL 2021 that kept him off bowling duties in the seven games for Mumbai Indians.

Kuldeep has lost his spot after having spent the entire Australia tour on the bench. He played just one Test in the home series against England — his only appearance in the last two years.

His omission was on expected lines mainly because of his poor form; also, the two spinners picked ahead of him — Axar Patel and Washington Sundar — provide better batting options.

With India preferring one or both of Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja in the XI, Kuldeep’s chances diminished. Patel has also made his claims stronger with a haul of 27 wickets in the three Tests against England.

The squad also includes KL Rahul and Wriddhiman Saha, subject to them proving their fitness. Rahul underwent surgery for appendicitis after he complained of “severe abdomen pain” during the IPL. He is expected to resume activity in a week’s time.

Saha, on the other hand, has tested positive for Covid-19. A member of the Sunrisers Hyderabad squad, he is still in Delhi and will have to undergo 14 days’ isolation and return a negative test before getting back to playing.

The opening options have been strengthened with the inclusion of Mayank Agarwal and Rahul, who can also double up as middle-order batsman. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill remain the first-choice opening pair. Vihari, who is playing County cricket for Warwickshire, returns after the hamstring injury he sustained in Sydney.

The six-man pace battery comprises Ishant Sharma, Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who returned to playing the IPL after injury issues recently, had to miss out since the national selectors, led by Chetan Sharma, felt that he was yet to attain Test match fitness.

Keeping in mind the length of the tour as well as possible contingencies because of the pandemic, the four standbys will also accompany the squad.

The list includes Gujarat left-arm fast bowler Nagwaswalla, who had a stellar 2019-20 season. The 23-year-old is the only Parsi cricketer currently playing at the first-class level in India and has 62 wickets in 16 matches.

His express pace has impressed the selectors and could prove to be a handful in English conditions.

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