Mumbai: Star batsman Rohit Sharma was retained despite his indifferent form but all-rounder Stuart Binny was axed as the selectors announced a largely unchanged 15-member Indian Test squad for the three-match home series against New Zealand, here on Monday.
Besides Binny, pacer Shardul Thakur was also overlooked from the squad which was truncated to 15 from the 17 that beat West Indies 2-0 last month. The series against New Zealand starts September 22 in Kanpur.
“We have stuck to the combination which has done very well. We were of the opinion that this was the best possible combination for New Zealand,” chief selector Sandeep Patil told reporters after chairing the final meeting of the current selection committee.
Rohit’s form was expected to be a major talking point on Monday given that in the series against West Indies, he mustered only 9 and 41 from two innings in the third Test at Gros Islet, the only time he got a chance to play in the series. Rohit also did not do well in the first innings of the ongoing Duleep Trophy final in Greater Noida after being specifically included in one of the teams — India Blue — following his return from the West Indies and the USA.
“Everyone, from selectors, coaches and the captain, felt that Rohit is a fabulous player and he needed a longer run,” Patil said justifying the selection.
Senior opener Gautam Gambhir was notably ignored by the selectors despite four back-to-back half centuries in the ongoing Duleep Trophy. Instead, the committee persisted with Shikhar Dhawan, whose place in the side has been questioned along with Rohit. “We want him (Dhawan) to come good, not only him, we want all 15 to perform. We have faith in all 15,” was Patil’s response when asked why Dhawan was retained.
“We are very happy with how K L Rahul has settled into the senior team. We have discussed not only Gautam but other seniors also. We have not forgotten the seniors, we discuss a lot of players… we have chosen only 15 players for this series but I am happy to say that we have a big pool of some 30 odd players,” Patil said.
The squad to be led by Virat Kohli has six specialist batsmen with Wriddhiman Saha as the wicketkeeper. The opening slot would be taken by Dhawan and Murali Vijay, while the middle order features Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, K L Rahul, and Cheteshwar Pujara along with Rohit. Ravindra Jadeja is the lone all-rounder in the squad. In the bowling department, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma will spearhead the pace attack, while Amit Mishra and R Ashwin held on to the two slots for spinners.