Udayavni Special

Squad announced for first two England Tests: Ishant, Hardik and Bumrah return, Natarajan misses out


Team Udayavani, Jan 20, 2021, 10:14 AM IST

Mumbai: Virat Kohli will return to lead India against England in the upcoming home Test series while the selectors also recalled all-rounder Hardik Pandya and pacer Ishant Sharma to bolster the squad, which was announced by the BCCI on Tuesday.

Kohli, who headed back to India on paternity leave after the first Test against Australia in Adelaide, was named in the 18-man squad along with pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, who missed the final Test in Brisbane due to an abdominal strain.

The squad was named only for the first two Tests of the four-match series, which starts on Feb. 5 in Chennai.

Senior pacer Ishant had missed the Australia tour due to the side strain he suffered during the IPL in the UAE while Pandya only played in the ODIs and the T20Is Down Under.

Tamil Nadu paceman T Natarajan was dropped as the selection panel added Axar Patel to the squad. Patel was preferred over Natarajan as he is a left-arm spinner and useful batsman down the order and is expected to be more effective to counter England on Indian pitches.

The 26-year-old Patel is yet to make his Test debut while he last played for India in T20Is in February 2018 against South Africa. He has also played 38 ODI matches.

He is an apt replacement for Ravindra Jadeja.

Ajinkya Rahane, who led India in three Tests in Australia after Kohli’s departure, was named as the vice-captain.

Expectedly, the selection panel retained youngster Shubman Gill and Washington Sundar as a reward for their excellent performance in Australia. Pacers Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, whose all-round ability helped India immensely in Brisbane, also kept their places.

Mayank Agarwal, who struggled for runs throughout the Test series, also managed to hang on to his spot in the squad.

Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who missed the Brisbane Test due to back spasms, has been named in the line-up as he is expected to recover by the time England land in India.

Wriddhiman Saha is the second wicketkeeper in the squad along with Rishabh Pant, whose gritty 89 not out shaped India’s three-wicket win in Brisbane.

The second Test will also be played in Chennai (Feb. 13-17) while Ahmedabad will host the third (Feb. 24-28) and fourth Tests (March 4-8).

The four-Test series will be followed by a five-match T20I series and three-match ODI rubber that will conclude on March 28 in Pune.

Wicketkeeper K S Bharat, batsmen Abhimanyu Easwaran and Priyank Panchal as well as spinners Shahbaz Nadeem and Rahul Chahar have been named as standby players.

Five players have also been named as net bowlers – pacers Ankit Rajpoot, Avesh Khan and Sandeep Warrier plus off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham and left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar.

India squad for first two Tests vs England:

Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel and KL Rahul (subject to fitness after first Test).

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