Vijay, Rohit and Parthiv return; Hardik out of Australia Tests


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Hardik Pandya, having had to be stretchered off the field in the recently concluded Asia Cup, doesn't find a place in India's 18-man Test squad announced by BCCI for the 2018-19 Australia tour.

Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma and Parthiv Patel mark their return while Mayank Agarwal and Mohammed Siraj, both of whom earned their maiden Test call-ups during the Windies series, have been left out.

Squad for the 4-Test series vs Australia: Virat Kohli (C), M Vijay, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Parthiv Patel, R Ashwin, R Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Both Parthiv Patel and Rohit Sharma last featured for India during the South Africa tour earlier this year. In the middle of Wriddhiman Saha's never-ending injury layoff, Patel finds a place in the squad in the capacity of a back-up wicket-keeper, with incumbent Rishabh Pant set to be the showstopper with the gloves, whereas Sharma's returns from the 2014-15 tour of Australia, which saw him promoted to the No. 4 at the cost of Cheteshwar Pujara, seems to have worked in his favour.

Murali Vijay had an indifferent series against England and was dropped for the last two Tests on the tour - a period he put to good use playing for Essex, even hitting a century on his county debut. Vijay scored 482 runs [1 hundred, 4 fifties] on India's last tour of Australia, being one of the kingpins of India's impressive showing with the bat, but will likely be a standby opener. India look set to continue with KL Rahul and Prithvi Shaw at the top - a combination they nurtured during the Windies series, which saw Shikhar Dhawan dropped. Mayank Agarwal, who could have been the standby opener in Vijay's absence, continues to be the forever bridesmaid and will be part of the India A squad to New Zealand later in the year.

The tour will finds Bhuvneshwar Kumar back in the fold, after last playing against South Africa in Johannesburg. The 28-year-old had to miss all five Tests in England owing to a lower back condition - something he had worsened by playing the third and final ODI in Headingley to much criticism. Bhuvneshwar has played just the one Test in Australia so far, when he had replaced Ishant Sharma for the Sydney Test during the 2014-15 tour and returned figures of 1-168 across two innings. Barring injuries, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami look certain starters at Adelaide and it will be interesting how India find a way to incorporate Kumar, especially in the backdrop of how Umesh Yadav bowled against the Windies in the recently-concluded series at home.

Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma also return; the former coming off a Test cool-off and the latter from an injury following an arduous tour of England. The two shared a menacing new-ball partnership across five Tests there, picking 18 wickets [5 Tests] and 14 wickets [3 Tests] respectively, and will look to resume the camaraderie with the Kookaburra ball down under.

India lost the four-Test series 2-0 during 2014-15 tour of Australia, but with two draws in Melbourne and Sydney to end the tour, and a more potent pace attack at their disposal - that's frequently been hailed as India's best ever - India look best equipped to exploit a vulnerable Australian side that will be without Steven Smith and David Warner.