On Friday, the national selectors, while picking India’s Test and ODI squads for the upcoming West Indies tour — the team for the five T20Is will be named later — dropped both the 35-year-olds from the side for the two-Test series in the Caribbean, which will be India’s first in the 2023-25 WTC cycle.
In-form openers Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad and seamer Mukesh Kumar were given maiden Test call-ups, while 32-year-old ace pacer Mohammed Shami has been rested from both Tests and ODIs in the Caribbean, keeping important assignments like the Asia Cup and World Cup later this year in mind.Interestingly, Umesh’s replacement in the Test squad is Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini, who hasn’t played a Test for India since January 2021. The 30-year-old didn’t play a single game in the Ranji Trophy last season but was included in the Rest of India team for the Irani Cup tie against Madhya Pradesh in Gwalior, where he took four wickets.
“He has impressed the selectors whenever he has bowled,” a source told TOI.
In a big vote of confidence in their abilities, Maharashtra’s Gaikwad, who was unable to join the team in England due to his marriage, and Bengal’s Mukesh, who has 149 wickets in 38 first-class games, have been picked in both the Test and ODI teams.
In what clearly seems like a game of musical chairs, middle-order batsman Suryakumar Yadav, who too was among the reserves for the WTC final, has been dropped from the 16-man Test squad.
Andhra’s wicketkeeper-batter KS Bharat, who made just 5 & 23 must consider himself lucky to have survived the axe.
Pujara’s axing means that India will have a new No. 3 in Tests in the West Indies, with the dashing Jaiswal, who cracked 1169 runs in nine First-Class games last season and was in blazing form for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL too, most likely to replace him at that spot.
While Rohit Sharma has been named as the captain of both the Test and ODI sides, in an interesting development, the experienced Ajinkya Rahane, who enjoyed a terrific Test comeback in the WTC final, scoring 89 & 46 on a difficult pitch, has been named as Rohit’s deputy in Tests.
For the nth time, Mumbai batsman Sarfaraz Khan, who has scored 3505 runs in 37 First-Class games at an average of 79.65, with 13 hundreds, including 556 runs in six games at an average of 92.66, with three centuries, in the last edition of the Ranji Trophy, has been ignored.
The first Test will begin on July 12 at Windsor Park in Dominica, while the second Test will start on July 20 at Queen’s Park Oval in Portof-Spain. The Tests will be followed by three ODIs.
Domestic grind for Pujara, SKY
Meanwhile, both Pujara and Suryakumar Yadav will replace Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ruturaj Gaikwad in the West Zone side for the Duleep Trophy. West Zone play their first match in the Duleep Trophy from July 5.
Pujara ‘soft’ target?
Both Pujara and Umesh were below par in the WTC final. While Pujara was out for 14 & 27, Umesh returned figures of 0-77 and 2-54.
Pujara came in for heavy criticism for the manner of his dismissal in the second innings of the WTC final where he tried an upper cut off Aussie skipper Pat Cummins. His axing, though, seems harsh because the other senior batsmen who failed in that game and haven’t been in great touch for India in recent times – skipper Rohit Sharma (15 & 43) and star bat Virat Kohli (14 & 49) will be on the plane to the West Indies.
“Like Pujara, both have endured an average run in the past couple of years but have clearly survived because they are big brands—there will be an uproar on social media if you drop either of them, while no one will bother if Pujara is dropped, since he’s ‘just’ a Test specialist. He’s a ‘soft’ target,” said a source.
A 102-Test veteran, Pujara had staged a comeback last year on the back of his heavy run-scoring in county cricket. However, the Saurashtra man has managed just one
century and 11 fifties in the last 28 Tests (52 innings).
Sources indicated that it’s not the end of the road for Pujara, who has been India’s No. 3 Test batter for more than a decade now.
“The selectors and the coach (Rahul Dravid) wanted to try out young batsmen like Jaiswal and Gaikwad on the West Indies tour, rather than blood them in South Africa in what will be a difficult tour. This is why Pujara has not been picked. If he scores runs in domestic cricket, the doors are not closed on him, and that has been communicated to him,” a source told TOI.
TEST SQUAD: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), KS Bharat (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat and Navdeep Saini
ODI SQUAD: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Surya Kumar Yadav, Sanju Samson (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya (vc), Shardul Thakur, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat, Mohd. Siraj, Umran Malik, Mukesh Kumar