India pick uncapped Pandya for England series
MUMBAI: Hardik Pandya received his first call-up to India’s Test squad Wednesday for next week’s start of a series against England after selectors said the brash allrounder had shown signs of mellowing.
Four spinners were also included in the squad for the first two matches of the series, with India keen to exploit England’s recent struggles in Bangladesh where they lost the second Test on a sharply turning pitch.
The 23-year-old Pandya has earned a reputation in Indian cricket circles for showmanship, with his exuberant onfield celebrations and swagger off the pitch having proved a turn-off for selectors in the past.
But after taking three wickets in his ODI debut last month against New Zealand, he has now earned himself a place in the squad for a keenly-awaited series against Alastair Cook’s England side.
Chairman of selectors MSK Prasad acknowledged Pandya had a reputation for being “a bit hyper” but had begun to mature under the mentorship of former skipper Rahul Dravid who is now coach of India’s A side.
“His pace has increased, he’s able to move the ball much better, his batsmanship has increased and overall his personality — he’s just mellowed down a bit and is doing very well,” Prasad told reporters.
“He’s one all-rounder we’ve got who’s an equally competent bowler and batsman along with (being) a good fielder too.
“We all know that he’s a bit hyper. Rahul Dravid has really been working on him on the mind aspect. He has worked so much on his mind.”
– Four spinners –
While Pandya will give India more options for pace bowling, their line-up for the first Test beginning in Rajkot on November 9 is expected to be laden with spinners.
The selection of the uncapped Jayant Yadav alongside Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra means India could play as many as four spinners although Yadav is not expected to make the starting XI.
Veteran opener Gautam Gambhir retained his place in the squad after being called up for the last Test against New Zealand following a two-year gap.
Meanwhile the openers Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul and middle order batsman Rohit Sharma were omitted with injuries.
Sharma sustained an injury to his upper thigh during the ODI series against New Zealand and is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks with surgery expected, meaning he will miss the whole series.
Rahul missed the last two Tests and the ODIs against New Zealand because of a hamstring injury, while Dhawan missed the third Test and the limited-overs contests after breaking his thumb.
Fast bowler Ishant Sharma returns to the squad after missing the New Zealand series with a mosquito-borne disease chikungunya.
Squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Karun Nair, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jayant Yadav.