Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Selectors wield the axe as India lose by 7 wickets

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Kolkata: Stung by two successive defeats on home soil, the national selectors cracked the whip on Sunday 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.

India lost the third Test to England by seven wickets here on Sunday, the final day of the match, with the visitors wrapping things up before lunch.

Ravichandran Ashwin added eight runs to India’s overnight score, which took him to 91 not out and India to 247 before Pragyan Ojha was bowled by James Anderson, leaving England a target of just 41.

And although the spin twins were able to pick up three England wickets, Ian Bell led the touring team to their second consecutive win on the current tour, giving England a 2-1 lead with one Test to play.

Man-of-the-Match and England skipper Alastair Cook praised his team for their overall performance and said that they would go into the Nagpur match with a “winning mentality”.

About his sublime form, the captain said: “I felt quite calm in the middle. When you bat for 20 minutes, half-an-hour and you are in form, there is a nice flow to it and you are not panicky. It was nice to be able to keep that calm.”

Besides Zaheer and Yuvraj, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who did not play in Kolkata, also found himself on the 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,” 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 – Ashwin and 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 in India’s second innings here may have just saved him.

Jadeja’s inclusion provides the all-rounder 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, although he scored 76 in the first innings.

Zaheer’s axing was on the cards as he took only one wicket in the 31 overs that he bowled in the third Test and has a tally of only four wickets in three Tests.

While Steven Finn and 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 will 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. Awana was among the top three wicket-takers last season and has already got two five-wicket hauls in two Ranji matches this year.

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. (PTI)

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