Selectors bite the bullet, discard Harbhajan; Saha reserve wicketkeeper

Mumbai : The national selectors have bitten the bullet and dropped one of the game’s top spinners Harbhajan Singh from the India squad for the tour of Australia next month.

That the feisty Punjab cricketer could not be fitted into even a 17-member squad shows that the selectors are not afraid to take hard decisions when opinion on Harbhajan’s utility to the side was divided.

Harbhajan, who has 406 wickets in 98 Tests at an average of 32.22, has been going through a lean patch for a long time.

Thus, for the first time in over a decade the Indians will be going on an important tour with two young spinners, left-arm Pragyan Ojha and offie Ravichandran Ashwin, who between them have played 17 Tests.

Ojha, who made his Test debut exactly two years ago at Kanpur against Sri Lanka, has 62 wickets from 14 Tests.

Both had outstanding series against the Caribbeans, Ashwin finishing with 22 wickets in his debut series and Ojha 20. The argument that Harbhajan could be a useful lower-order bat was demolished when Ashwin cracked a hundred in the Mumbai Test Friday.

The selection committee, headed by Krishnamachari Srikkanth, also picked the best wicketkeeper in the country Wriddhiman Saha instead of getting Parthiv Patel who could also be utilized as a third opener. Instead, they have decided to go in for a regular third opener in Ajinkya Rahane.

As expected they have decided to carry Zaheer Khan as the 17th member, subject to his match-fitness. The pace spearhead, who pulled his hamstring in the first Test against England, will prove his fitness in the two Ranji Trophy matches he intends to play and also the two warm-up matches in Canberra.

Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma got in on the strength of their impressive showing on the tours to West Indies and England in the summer while Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron have been tried out and performed well in the home Test series against West Indies.

Barring Rohit Sharma and Rahane all the others have played Test cricket.

The squad:
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S.Laxman, Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Rohit Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Zaheer Khan.
IANS

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