Bengaluru: Virat Kohli's much-hyped county stint paved the way for Karun Nair's comeback while senior batsman Rohit Sharma was dropped from the 15-strong Indian squad announced today for the historic one-off Test against Afghanistan next month.
Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane will expectedly lead the team in Kohli's absence, the selection committee led by MSK Prasad announced after a meeting in which multiple squads were picked.
Rahane, however, has been dropped from the ODI squad for England tour. He was part of India's 50-over squad during the South Africa tour.
Ambati Rayudu and KL Rahul were notable comebacks in the ODI squad for the England tour while young speedster Siddarth Kaul was rewarded with a T20 berth against Ireland and England for his consistent IPL performance.
The highlight of today's selection was without doubt India's second ever Test triple centurion Nair, who is making a comeback after 14 months in the wilderness, and it remains to be seen if he makes the playing XI against the Afghans in the match starting June 14.
However, Kohli has been named as captain for the two-match T20 series against Ireland. Interestingly, Surrey had officially announced that Kohli will be available for the entire month of June, but the two T20 Internationals are scheduled on June 27 and 29. Surrey's county game against Yorkshire at Scarborough is scheduled from June 25-28.
"Except Virat, all the Test specialists are playing. He is going for a cause as he wants to come well prepared for the England Test series. It is always good that he goes there and performs well. He is very keen to do extremely well in english condition. It is a great opportunity for us to win the series," chairman of selectors Prasad said at a media conference.
The 26-year-old Nair has scored 612 runs for Karnataka in the last Ranji Trophy with three hundreds. Incidentally, the last Test match that he played was against Australia at Dharamasala in March, last year. Ironically, it was Kohli, who had missed the Test match then due to a shoulder injury.
Nair has played six Test matches, scoring 374 runs, but after his 303 against England at Chennai, his sequence of scores read 26, 0, 23 and 5, leading to his exclusion. However, it is highly unlikely that Nair will get a look-in in the playing XI against Afghanistan.
For the 31-year-old Rohit, an aggregate of 78 runs in 4 innings with a highest score of 47 during the South Africa series, is the reason for his exclusion from the Test squad.
Pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have been rested as they are expected to shoulder the workload during the limited overs leg in UK before the big-ticket Test series in August.
While the BCCI allowed Kohli to prepare for the England Tests by playing county, the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma have come back after their month-long stint at the Old Blighty, for Yorkshire and Sussex respectively.
Most of the senior players have retained their places in the squad with all the three openers KL Rahul, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan in the 15. Also present are senior spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja along with chinaman Kuldeep Yadav.
Hardik Pandya is the only all-rounder while the seasoned duo of Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami are expected to share the new ball. The back-up pacer in the squad is Shardul Thakur.
In the limited overs version, Kaul, who has been a stupendous performer at the domestic level, got the nod. He was picked for the ODI series against Sri Lanka at home but didn't get to play.
The selectors didn't experiment with any of the limited overs squad, with senior batsman Rayudu making a comeback in the wake of some good performances. Rayudu will try to form the missing link in the 50-over format as Manish Pandey has made it in the shortest format only.
India Squad for one-off Test against Afghanistan: Ajinkya Rahane (Capt), Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Karun Nair, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Shardul Thakur.
India Squad for two-match T20I series against Ireland: Virat Kohli (Capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni(wk), Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Siddharth Kaul, Umesh Yadav.
India Squad for three-match T20I series against England: Virat Kohli (Capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni(wk), Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Siddharth Kaul, Umesh Yadav.
India Squad for three-match ODI series against England: Virat Kohli (Capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni(wk), Dinesh Karthik, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Siddharth Kaul, Umesh Yadav. PTI