Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan retained their places in the Indian team that will take on New Zealand in a three-Test series at home, starting September 22. However, pacer Shardul Thakur and all-rounder Stuart Binny, who toured the West Indies recently, have been dropped.
New Zealand will tour India to play a three-Test and five-match One-Day International (ODI) series from September 22. The visitors will also play a three-day practice game against Mumbai at the Ferozeshah Kotla in New Delhi from September 16 to 18.
The three Tests will be played at Kanpur (September 22-26), Kolkata (September 30-October 4) and Indore (October 8-12). The following five ODIs will take place in Dharamsala, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Ranchi and Visakhapatnam on October 16, 20, 23, 26 and 29 respectively.
The below-par Test record of Rohit was expected to be the focus of discussion when the selection committee, headed by Sandeep Patil, picked the squad in Mumbai in the presence of head coach Anil Kumble and captain Virat Kohli. Binny and Thakur were overlooked from the squad which was truncated to 15 from the 17 that beat the West Indies 2-0 last month.
“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 said after chairing the final meeting of the current selection committee.
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.
Despite Rohit’s poor form in the Tests, he has had the confidence of Kohli, who feels that the ODI specialist should be given a longer run to prove himself in longest format of the game.
The star Mumbai batsman, who holds the world record for the highest score in ODIs, could never settle down in Tests during his delayed 18-Test career that began with a bang — with back-to-back tons against the West Indies in 2013 in India.
Considered to be a batsman with a wide range of strokes, Rohit has been in and out of the playing XI since then with consistency not his forte in Tests.
In the recent series against the West Indies in the Caribbean, he got a chance to play in two out of four games, one of which was washed out, and he mustered 9 and 41 in the two innings in the third Test at Gros Islet.
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. He made just 30 runs before throwing his wicket away.
“We have stuck to the combination that has done very well overseas. Rohit needs a longer run in Test cricket. He is immensely talented and should get a fair run,” said Patil.
India’s last series was against the West Indies where the Virat Kohli-led team defeated the Caribbean side 2-0 in four Tests. Two of the Tests were more or less washed out due to rain.
India’s Test squad vs New Zealand: Virat Kohli (Captain), KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shikhar Dhawan, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav