Kolkata(PTI) Stung by two successive defeats on home soil, the national selectors today cracked the whip by axing veteran pace spearhead Zaheer Khan and batsman Yuvraj Singh from the squad for the fourth and final Test against England starting on Thursday.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who did not play the last match, also found himself in casualty list as the selectors opted for a leg-spinner in Piyush Chawla and infused young blood by picking Delhi paceman Parvinder Awana and Saurashtra all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.
Barring Yuvraj and Zaheer’s omissions, there were no major changes to the squad announced by BCCI Secretary Sanjay Jagdale after a meeting of the Sandeep Patil-led selection panel.
The selectors also announced the team for the two Twenty20 matches to be held in Pune (December 20) and Mumbai (December 22) in which Uttar Pradesh all-rounder Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Awana were the two new faces. Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan were left out and the Board explained that they were unavailable for the series.
“I don’t want to comment on selection issues. No one is happy when the team loses. We are looking into it, we are working on it,” said Jagdale.
Jadeja, a hot property in the IPL, and Awana were rewarded with a berth in the team for their consistent performance in the domestic circuit.
Under pressure to make changes after the debacles in Mumbai and Kolkata, the national selectors, however, refrained from making wholesale changes to the squad.
As a result some of the other non-performing stars retained their places while the two spinners — R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha — despite being below-par have hung on to their places.
Off-spinner Ashwin has flopped as a bowler in the series so far but his unbeaten knock of 91 may have just saved him from the axe.
Jadeja’s inclusion provides the all-rounder’s option to the team, particularly after the middle-order batsmen failed to make much of an impression. Virat Kohli has had a dismal series,while Sachin Tendulkar has also been struggling for runs though he scored 76 in the first innings.
Zaheer’s axing was on the cards as he took only one wicket in 31 overs that he bowled in the third Test and has a tally only four wickets in three Tests.
While Steven Finn and James Anderson swung the ball in Kolkata, Zaheer failed to do so for India and was shoddy on the field.
Zaheer’s absence will mean that either Ashok Dinda or Awana would play in the Nagpur Test. Ishant Sharma, who also did not make much of an impact, has been retained though his place in the playing XI remains uncertain.
Jadeja hit two triple centuries against Gujarat and Railways in the Ranji Trophy and was recently in the news for being the first Indian to hit three triple centuries.
Awana was among the top three wicket-takers last season and has already got two five-wicket in the two Ranji Trophy matches this season.
Squad for Nagpur Test: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, M Vijay, Parvinder Awana.
Squad for Twenty20 series: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c), Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Manoj Tiwary, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Piyush Chawla, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Laxmipathy Balaji, Parvinder Awana.