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Rahul, Karn make cut

Rahul, Karn make cut
Upcoming batsman K L Rahul and leg-spinner Karn Sharma were on Monday named in India’s 19-member Test squad for the tour of Australia, where skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will skip the opening match owing to an injury.

Suresh Raina staged a comeback into the Test fold while wicketkeeper-batsman Naman Ojha also found a place in the squad announced by BCCI Secretary Sanjay Patel after a meeting of the selection committee.

With the selectors opting to go for youngsters, senior players like Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha continued to be on the sidelines. Dhoni, who is nursing a right thumb injury which he picked up during the truncated series against West Indies, has been ruled out of the first Test in Brisbane (December 4 to 8) and Virat Kohli will lead the team in this match.

‘Virat Kohli will lead India in the first Test, starting on 4 December 2014, in Brisbane. M.S. Dhoni has been rested for the first Test as a prophylactic measure to ensure optimum recovery. He will join the team from the second Test onwards, and will lead the team for the rest of the Test series,’ Patel said in a statement.

There were no major surprises in the squad for Australia as Rahul’s name had been doing the rounds for his consistent performance in domestic cricket. The 22-year-old from Karnataka piled up 1035 in the last Ranji season, finishing as the second highest run-scorer after Kedar Jadhav. With knocks of 185 and 130 in the recent Duleep Trophy, the batsman had caught the eye of selection panel headed by Sandeep Patil.

Rahul also has the experience of playing in Australia as he had opened for India A in a recent tour Down Under. The 27-year-old Karn, who has already played a Twenty20 International for India, has been performing well with leg-break bowling in the IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad, who bought him for a whopping Rs 3.75 crore. He grabbed 11 wickets in 13 matches at an economy rate of 6.60 in the season gone by. Naman Ojha has also benefitted from his good form in the domestic circuit and has been chosen in the squad more as a reserve batsman than a wicketkeeper. He scored four centuries on the trot, including three in Australia.

It was also a comeback of sorts for Raina, who has been a regular in the ODI team but has struggled to retain his place in the longer format. The team has five specialist pacemen, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Varun Aaron. But worryingly, three of them, Ishant, Varun and Shami, are recovering from injuries. There are three specialist spinners in the squad with R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Karn Sharma. The batting line-up has a more assured look with Dhawan and Murali Vijay picked for opening.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina along with captain Dhoni make a for a strong middle-order. The Indians are scheduled to play four Test matches during the tour. Apart from Brisbane, Adelaide (December 12 to 16), Melbourne (December 26 to 30) and Sydney (January 3 to 7) will host the other three matches.

Squad: MS Dhoni (C), Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, W Saha, Naman Ojha, R Ashwin, Karn Sharma, R Jadeja, B Kumar, Md Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron.
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