Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin have been given the nod ahead of Harbhajan Singh for Australia tour. (AFP Photo)
Mumbai: The spin pair of Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin have been rewarded for their stellar performance in the series against West Indies by being named in India's Test squad for the tour of Australia starting next month. Uncapped middle-order batsman Rohit Sharma has been included in the 17-man squad, which saw the return of Praveen Kumar after he was rested for the ongoing series against West Indies.
Ojha's 20 wickets at 22.50 made him India's second most successful wicket-taker of the series, but the most economical and attacking. Ashwin, 25, has been most successful bowler, finishing with 22 wickets at 22.90 apart from scoring a century in his debut series.
Their rapid rise has seemingly shut the door on Harbhajan Singh, India's second most successful spinner ever. During a disappointing injury-ridden performance in England he took only two wickets in 69.4 overs at an average of 143.50 and economy rate of 4.11. In three matches for his home state of Punjab in this season’s Ranji Trophy, Harbhajan has managed two wickets at an average of 102 and a strike-rate of 225.
Rohit had replaced a struggling Yuvraj Singh for India's squad for the third and final Test in Mumbai. He made a match-winning 175 against Railways and followed that up with 100 against Rajasthan in Mumbai's first two games of the ongoing Ranji Trophy season. He had earlier toured Sri Lanka in 2008 but has yet to make his Test debut. Mumbai' Ajinkya Rahane also found a place in the squad.
Fast bowlers Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron have been included after impressing with their pace in a few limited-overs appearances, as well as in this current Test series. Ishant Sharma, with 40 Tests, is the most experienced bowler in the squad, considering Zaheer Khan will only link up with the team in Australia if he can prove his match fitness. Praveen has returned after leading India’s attack on the disastrous tour of England admirably.
India's squad included eight batsman – Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, Rohit and Ajinkya Rahane – two wicketkeeper-batsmen – MS Dhoni and Wriddhiman Saha – five fast bowlers – Ishant, Yadav, Aaron, Praveen and Zaheer (subject to fitness) and two spinners in Ojha and Ashwin.
The first Test begins on Boxing Day in Melbourne.
India squad: MS Dhoni (capt), 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.