Out of form off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was today ignored while paceman Praveen Kumar and Rohit Sharma were recalled in India's 17-member Test squad for next month's gruelling tour of Australia.
Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who missed most part of the England tour and ongoing series against the West Indies because of hamstring and ankle injury, has been provisionally named in the squad subject to passing the fitness test.
Bengal wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha was also named in the squad ahead of Parthiv Patel but there were no major surprises in the team announced by the BCCI Secretary Sanjay Jagdale after a meeting of the selection committee here.
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.
Though Harbhajan has a good track record against the Australians, the selectors reposed faith in the new spin combination of Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin, who have done exceedingly well in the ongoing series against the West Indies.
"Unfortunately, we cannot help it as the team selects itself. In Australia, you cannot have more than two spinners. Pragyan Ojha and Ashwin are doing an excellent job. Sometimes it becomes bad luck and sometimes people miss out. I'm sure everyone has their own time and space to come back," chief selector Kris Srikkanth told reporters after the meeting.
Srikkanth said Zaheer will have to prove his match fitness before he gets the clearance to travel to Australia.
"Zaheer will play in a couple of Ranji Trophy matches. And once he is fully match-fit and everything is fine, he will join the side. He may also go with the team as by the time (the team leaves) he would have played a couple of matches by that time," said Srikkanth.
Yuvraj Singh, who was not considered for selection for the ODI series against the West Indies after he declared himself unfit, was also not included in the team which has five pacers, including Zaheer, and two specialist spinners.
The batting heavyweights like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Gautam Gambhir were expectedly named in the squad.
Mumbai batsman Ajinkya Rahane, who has made quite an impression in the few opportunities he has got, has been retained in the team while fit-again Rohit was recalled.
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).
Srikkanth said the selectors have chosen a balanced side and he hoped the team will do well in Australia.
"We have chosen a very balanced side. We have taken everything into account, including fitness and Australian conditions. If you ask me today whether this team can beat Australia in Australia, I would say I'm very confident. We should beat Australia in Australia in a Test series," he said.
"Our batsman are in form, our bowlers are in form. And now we have all kinds of bowlers. We have fast bowlers, medium fast bowlers, we have swing bowlers, spinners -- left arm and off spin," said Srikkanth.
"So depending on the conditions there the team management will select the team on a match-to match basis. Let's hope that this side beats Australia in Australia, which has been a very cherished dream for every Indian cricketer, and every Indian fan," he said.
The Squad: M S Dhoni (capt.), Virender Sehwag (v-capt.), 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 (provisional).
Harbhajan, Yuvraj Out of Test Squad for Australia Tour
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