Zeenews Sports Bureau
Mumbai: Injury-prone paceman Zaheer Khan has been included while out-of-favour off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and middle-order batsman Yuvraj Singh have been left out of the 17-member Indian squad for the tour of Australia on Saturday.
Mumbai batsmen Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane have also been included in the team while the second wicketkeeper’s slot went to Bengal stumper Wriddhiman Saha.
It’s still not clear whether Zaheer is match fit or not but his inclusion in the team would depend on his fitness level in the two Ranji Trophy matches he is scheduled to play for Mumbai before the tour.
Otherwise, the pace department has been chosen on the expected lines with both the rookies- Varoon Aaron and Umesh Yadav- finding their places in the team. Lanky pacer Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar will complete the five-man pace attack.
Though some former cricketers pleaded for Harbhajan’s inclusion into the side, it was difficult to ignore either Pragyan Ojha or R Ashwin after their superlative shows against the touring West Indies team.
Their performances clearly shut the door on the Punjab spinner whose recent Ranji form has not been satisfactory.
The batting department looks absolutely solid with the presence of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli.
Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma would be the reserve batsmen. Rahane can even be used as the back-up opener as he started his Ranji career as an opener though he got most of his runs while batting at No. 3 for Mumbai.
Young leg-spinner Rahul Sharma, who featured in India's squad for the ongoing series against West Indies, has been excluded from the team, to be captained by Mahendra Singh Dhoni with Virender Sehwag as his deputy.
The selectors more or less retained the core of the team that has been doing duty in the ongoing series against the West Indies which meant that Harbhajan continued to be in the wilderness.
The Test series against Australia will begin with the Boxing Day (December 26) Test in Melbourne, followed by three other matches in Sydney (Jany 3-7), in Perth (Jan 13-17) and in Adelaide (Jan 24-28).
Team: MS Dhoni (capt &wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Rohit Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Zaheer Khan