India will be going into the first Test against South Africa at Nagpur without the batting duo of Dravid, Yuvraj and match-winning fast bowler Sreesanth. The 15-man squad has a couple of rookies in Karnataka pace bowling sensation Abhimanyu Mithun and Bengal Wicket Keeper Wriddhiman Saha.
A 14-man Board President’s XI led by Rohit Sharma has also been announced by the Selectors with most of the youngsters getting a look in. Manish Pandey, who is a part of that squad gets his first opportunity to showcase his talent against a formidable foreign team.
Tamil Nadu’s consistent middle order batsman – Subramaniam Badrinath has been included in the Test side, but is most certainly going to sit on the bench. Murali Vijay is likely to get the nod ahead of Badri and will be filling up for Rahul Dravid at the crucial no.3 position. Though India cleanswept the Test Series in Bangladesh, the tour presented them with injury problems. Sreesanth pulled out with a hamstring injury, Rahul Dravid got his cheek bone fractured to a wicked bouncer and Yuvraj Singh sustaining a ligament tear in his wrist.
VVS Laxman, who had missed out in the second Test at Mirpur due to a split webbing returns back ino the team to add up experience to the middle order. The Seclection Committee headed by Krish Srikkanth dropped Dinesh Karthik from the squad. Though its not a usual practice to include two keepers in the squad for a home test, the Selectors had to do it because of Dhoni’s unpredictable back spasms. The Indian Captain had to sit out during the first Test at Chittagong for the same reason. Surprisingly, Karthik who has done well with the bat in ODIs finds himself making way to 25-year-old Saha.
The inclusion of Abhimanyu Mithun is also surprising considering that the lad had just one solid season of first class cricket. Mithun has impressed everyone so far with his hostility and some day is destined to play for India. There is also another fast bowler in Sudeep Tyagi to provide back-up for Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma.
The first Test is at the newly built VCA Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur on the 6th of next month. The warm-up match of the Board President’s XI against the South Africans is also in the same city but at the old VCA Stadium on the 2nd and 3rd of February.
India Squad for first Test at Nagpur : MS Dhoni (C & WK), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Sudeep Tyagi, Abhimanyu Mithun and Wriddhiman Saha (WK)
Board President’s XI Squad : Abhinav Mukund, Parthiv Patel (WK), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma (C), Manish Pandey, Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhishek Nayar, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin, R Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun, Shikhar Dhawan, Umesh Yadav and Manpreet Gony