Virat Kohli, seemingly through with his parenting duties, has returned to lead India against England in the upcoming home Test series, while the selectors have also recalled all-rounder Hardik Pandya and pacer Ishant Sharma to bolster the squad.
Kohli, who proceeded on paternity leave after the Adelaide Test, was named in the 18-man squad along withpace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, who missed the final Testin Brisbane against Australia due to an abdominal strain. The squad has been named only for the first two Tests of the four match series, starting on February 5 in Chennai.
Moments after Team India beat Australia, they were given a warning by former England skipper Kevin Pietersen. He congratulated India for their win, but also added that the ‘real team’ will be arriving in the country in two weeks’ time and that the hosts should watch out for them. Interestingly, he wrote this in a tweet in Hindi and was soon trending on social media for it.
Senior pacer Ishant had missed the Australia tour due to the side strain he suffered during the IPL in the UAE while Pandya only played the ODIs and T20Is Down Under.
Tamil Nadu paceman T Natarajan was dropped as the selection panel added Axar Patel, a left-arm spinner and useful batsman down the order, to the squad as he would be more effective to counter England on Indian pitches.
The 26-year-old Patel is yet to make his Test debut while he last played for India in T20s in February 2018 against South Africa. He has also played 38 ODI matches. He is an apt replacement for Ravindra Jadeja.
Ajinkya Rahane, who led India in three Tests in Australia after Kohli's departure, was named as the vice-captain. Expectedly, the selection panel retained youngster Shubhman Gill and Washington Sundar, rewarding them for their excellent performance in Australia. Pacer Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, whose all-round prowess helped India immensely in Brisbane, also kept their places along with Mayank Agarwal, who struggled for runs.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who missed the Brisbane Test due to back injury, has also been named in the line-up; he is expected to recover by the time England land in India. Wriddhiman Saha is the second wicket-keeper in the squad along with Rishabh Pant, whose gritty 89 not out shaped India's three-wicket win in Brisbane.
The second Test will also be played in Chennai (February 13-17) while Ahmedabad will host the third (Feb 24-28) and the fourth Test (March 4- 8). The four-Test series will be followed by a five-match T20 series and three-match ODI rubber that will conclude on March 28 in Pune.