Pace heavy squad could boost India in England


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An interesting feature of the new squad is six fast bowlers, including Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Pankaj Singh and fast bowling all-rounder Stuart Binny, says Harish Kotian.

The selectors were finally forced to recall the experienced Gautam Gambhir, as India, perhaps, for the first time in its cricketing history, named an 18-member squad for next month’s tour of England.
The 32-year-old Delhi batsman, who has played 54 Tests, is sidelined since December 2012, after the Test against England in Nagpur.

However, considering India’s away defeats in South Africa and New Zealand, the selectors had no option but recall the experienced opener for the crucial five-Test series.

On the last tour of England, in 2011, India, hampered by injuries to key players like Zaheer Khan and Gambhir in the first two matches, were whitewashed 4-0.

This time, though, the selection panel has tried to cover all areas by naming a large squad.

Zaheer Khan, Ambati Rayudu and Umesh Yadav, who were part of the 17-man squad that toured New Zealand in January-February, however, failed to get the nod.

A large pool of fast bowlers on tour helps in case of injuries

An interesting feature of the new squad is six fast bowlers, including Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Pankaj Singh and fast bowling all-rounder Stuart Binny.

Pandey was part of the squad that toured New Zealand, but did not get a game, while Aaron and Panjaj are new entrants to the Test line-up.

Having a large pool of fast bowlers on tour not only helps in case of injuries, but also comes useful at net sessions. Since the batsmen in the squad want to face as many deliveries as possible in the nets, the workload can be shared equally by the pacers.

Zaheer has a reputation of getting injured overseas

The experienced Zaheer has a reputation of getting injured overseas. This time his chances of making the squad were dashed after he picked an injury during the ongoing Indian Premier League, which ruled him out of the India leg of the Twenty20 tournament.

The selectors, as expected, did not want to take a risk as far as his fitness is considered and opted for younger and fitter players.

Rajasthan’s Pankaj Singh, 29, is one of the most experienced fast bowlers in the Indian domestic cricket. His consistency has earned him 300 wickets in 77 first class matches, including 21 five-wicket and four 10-wicket hauls. He took 39 wickets in the Ranji Trophy last year and duly deserves the call-up to the national side.

However, the selection of Binny as all-rounder is a bit surprising. It remains to be seen whether he gets to play at all in the five Tests.

Gambhir was dropped for the New Zealand tour despite a steady performance in the home series against England when he scored 251 runs from four matches. It will be interesting to see if he is makes it to the playing eleven for the first Test or the team management keeps him in the reserves and includes him incase one of the openers fails to get going on the tour.

On the last trip to England in 2011, he struggled with injury after being hit while fielding at short leg during the first Test at Lord’s. It ruled him out of the next match. He then sustained another injury when he fell on his head while trying to take a high catch and complained of dizziness and blurry vision.

Hope rests on the shoulders of Pujara

The rest of the batting line-up picks itself. Virat Kohli is expected to lead the way, while a lot of hope rests on the shoulders of Cheteshwar Pujara, who failed to make it to the squad for the Bangladesh One-Day Internationals.

Based on past experience, India are well aware of the pitches they will encounter and have gone in with two regular spinners in Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin.

Interestingly, the team for the England Tests has been selected early. But that could be because acquiring visas for the United Kingdom takes time and the players need to reach well before the first Test to get acclimatized.

The first Test commences on July 9 at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, after two three-day warm-up matches against Leicestershire, from July 26-28, and Derbyshire, from July 1-3.​