Team India selection: Hardik fails fitness test; close race for spinners’ slots in Test squad

Hardik Pandya failed a fitness test before India A's departure for the tour of New Zealand, while it isn't a given that spinners Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav will pick themselves.

Besides Hardik Pandya (in pic), white-ball vice-captain Rohit Sharma will also be back in the fold.   -  FILE PHOTO/K. MURALI KUMAR

Hardik Pandya’s hopes of making a return to India’s squad after a four-month injury hiatus may have evaporated with the allrounder failing a fitness test before India-A’s departure, but the the national selection panel, headed by M.S.K. Prasad, will still have a lot to mull over while finalising on Sunday the squad for five T20Is, three ODIs and two Tests to be played in New Zealand from January 24.

The allrounder, having recovered from a back surgery, had to be pulled out of India A’s tour to New Zealand. As a result, Shivam Dube will continue to be the main allrounder for the T20 series, since the Mumbai allrounder has fared reasonably in his limited opportunities. The selectors would be tempted to replace one of the four spinners who were part of the squad for India’s just-concluded series against Sri Lanka with another pace bowling allrounder Vijay Shankar, who has been roped in for India-A.

Read: Who is India's No. 3 in T20Is?

With white-ball vice-captain Rohit Sharma set to be welcomed back into the fold after being rested for the Sri Lanka T20Is, it will be interesting to see if Sanju Samson loses out on the plane or the selectors announce a 16-member squad with an eye on the T20 World Cup in October-November.

Saha-Pant conundrum

The two-Test series, starting on February 21, will be a part of the World Test Championship. It has to be seen if the selectors retain both the wicketkeepers — Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant. Saha, who had recovered from multiple injuries, was preferred over Pant for the five-Test home stretch.

Even though Saha justified the faith shown in him, some in the selection panel and team management feel that Pant needs to be persisted with away from home with his more-than-handy batting. Prasad and Co. will have its task cut out in finalising the combination.

Besides, the selectors will also have a hard time in picking the back-up opener to Rohit and Mayank Agarwal’s settled combination. K.L. Rahul, having scored heavily across formats, is the front-runner, pipping the likes of Shubman Gill, Priyank Panchal, Abhimanyu Easwaran and Prithvi Shaw.

While the top four pacers select themselves, it is far from given that all the three spinners in India’s squad for the series against Bangladesh — R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav — will board the flight to New Zealand, with the selectors being tempted to draft in an additional pacer.

Jadhav in doubt for ODIs

As for the ODI series sandwiched between the T20Is and the Tests, the selectors will have to decide whether to stick with Kedar Jadhav.

With the Maharashtra batsman unlikely to last till the 2023 World Cup, the selectors may decide to look beyond him and try out either Ajinkya Rahane or Suryakumar Yadav, instead.

Women’s squad for ICC WT20 on Sunday

Two days after the Women’s Challengers Series’ conclusion, the national women’s selection committee will sit down on Sunday to finalise India’s squad for the Women’s T20 World Cup, to be played in Australia from February 21 to March 8.