New Delhi: Rock in the middle-order for over more than a decade, Rahul Dravid would not be their to take his customary number 3 position in the Indian batting line-up when the world number one side squares of with the second ranked south African outfit on February 6th at Nagpur for the first Test.
Dravid had sustained a fracture on his left jaw during the second Test against Bangladesh, after which he was advised 3 weeks of rest, as the Indian selectors named a strong 15-member squad for the first Test.
"We have selected the best possible team considering the number of injuries that the Indian team have suffered in the recent series," selection committee chairman Krishnamachari Srikkanth said.
"The team has been selected just for the first Test. We will take a call on the team for the second Test after getting the fitness report of the injured players," he added.
Besides Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Sreesanth too miss out on the first Test owing to injury concerns. Yuvraj is nursing an injured left wrist while Sreesanth is suffering back spasm.
Srikkanth said Dravid was very keen to play but the doctors have advised him rest as precautionary measure.
"Dravid was very keen to play but the doctors have advised him rest as a precautionary measure," he said.
West Bengal’s wicketkeeper and middle-order batsman Wriddhiman Saha and Karnataka pacer Abhimanyu Mithun would be the new faces to be inducted in the squad.
"Dhoni had a few niggles during the Bangladesh tour and had even missed the first Test. Even in the ODIs he had a few problems with his fitness, so we have included Wriddhiman Saha as a back up. If in the morning of the match, Dhoni is unavailable, we will have Saha as a replacement," he said.
Dinesh Karthik was also dropped while the remaining squad has been retained.
The 15-member squad has six specialist batsman, three spinners and four pacemen and two wicketkeepers in captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Saha.
While Harbhajan Singh will spearhead the spin department, left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and leg-spinner Amit Mishra will play the supporting role.
The pace department will be lead by Zaheer Khan with Ishant Sharma, Mithun and Sudeep Tyagi being the other pacers.
20-year-old Mithun was rewarded for his splendid show in the domestic circuit by emerging as the highest wicket taker in the Ranji Trophy season.
An Uttar Pradesh paceman, Tyagi had also featured in the squad that toured Bangladesh, has retained his place largely because S Sreesanth`s injury.
Apart from Mithun and Saha`s inclusion, there were no other suprises in the squad announced by BCCI secretary N Srinivasan after a meeting of the selection committee here.
Regarding Mithun`s inclusion, the chief selector said, "He has done extremely well in the domestic season and we really needed a fast bowler for the Tests, so we have included him."
The opening combination looks settle with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir in good form.
With Yuvraj and Dravid rendered unavailable, the middle-order lacks experience, which will put more responsibility on stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman.
Stylish batsman VVS Laxman, who had also suffered a finger injury during the Test series against Bangladesh, has recovered sufficiently to be drafted into the squad.
Tamil Nadu batsman Murali Vijay, who toured Bangladesh as a reserve opener, retained his spot in the squad and is likely to play in the middle order like he did in the second Test against Bangladesh as a replacement for Laxman.
The South Africans will play two Tests -- Nagpur (Feb 6-10) and Kolkata (Feb 14-18) -- and three one-dayers in Jaipur, Kanpur and Ahmedabad during their tour of India.
Teams: MS Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, S Badrinath, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, M Vijay, Sudeep Tyagi, Abhimanyu Mithun, Wriddhiman Saha.