Indian selectors give fresh faces a chance for New Zealand tour

Pacer Ishwar Pandey and all-rounder Stuart Binny have been on the selectors' radar for some time now, and both got their maiden call-ups for India's tour to New Zealand.

India will play two Tests and five One-Day Internationals beginning on January 19.

Pandey made it to both the Test and one-day squads. He was the lone newcomer in the Test squad that lost 0-1 to South Africa and replaced left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha who sat out both the Tests.


Pandey's inclusion will see India going to Kiwi-land with as many as six seamers, and it is difficult to recall the last time India had such pace-heavy Test squad.

The selectors announced 17 players for the two Tests. However, there were three changes in the 16-member one-day squad which got a 0-2 drubbing in South Africa.

Pandey was joined by Binny and Varun Aaron, who makes a comeback from injury after two years.

Ishwar Pandey

The axe fell on Yuvraj Singh, pacer Mohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav, who retained his place in the Test squad.

Yuvraj's poor run of form saw him out of the side. He was troubled by the bounce in the home series against Australia when he scored just 19 runs in four innings.

In the next five ODIs against West Indies and South Africa, the left-hander had just one half-century to his name.

Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had time and again stressed the need to have a medium-pace all-rounder for the team's balance. This may have prompted Stuart's inclusion.

In 53 first-class matches, the Karnataka player has scored 2,714 runs at an average of 34.79, besides taking 79 wickets.

Son of current national selector and member of 1983 World Cup winning team Roger Binny, Stuart can use the long handle well, as he showed in the Ranji Trophy game against Delhi on Tuesday. He was part of the India 'A' squad that toured South Africa earlier this year.

Madhya Pradesh's Pandey was the top wicket-taker in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy, claiming 48 wickets at 21.06. He carried his good form into the current season and in 12 first-class matches, and has taken 45 wickets. This includes two matches each against South Africa A and West Indies A.

Left-arm spinner Ojha who was unfortunate to miss out on a Test berth again. India played with only one spinner in the two Tests in South Africa with Ashwin, who was largely unimpressive, and Jadeja got the nod ahead of Ojha.

The selectors want to have several pacers to choose from to exploit the New Zealand conditions.

Ishant Sharma retained his place, while Zaheer Khan, Umesh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Mohammad Shami will bring variety to the pace attack.

Bowling still the weak link for Indians

By Mail Today Correspondent

Ishant Sharma

One can see the glass as either half full or half empty. The 0-1 scoreline in the two-Test series can be viewed optimistically in the light of the damning predictions being made before the team's departure, and reinforced after the annihilation in the one-day series.

But considering the situation in which Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team found itself in both Tests, Indian fans may have hoped for something better.

The Indian batting line-up gave a good account of itself in the Rainbow Nation and unlike some other teams in the last few years, was not dismissed for a double-figure total.

The likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane showed they have what it takes to succeed outside the sub-continent. Murali Vijay also displayed application and patience.

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma did not have a good series, but they need to be persevered with.

However, in overseas conditions, Indian batting seems to effectively end at No.6. Dhoni has not done much with the bat, and the lower order frequently caves in without resistance.

But it is the bowling department that is the cause of concern. Zaheer Khan was effective in the first innings in Johannesburg, but thereafter ran out of steam. The same is true of Ishant Sharma, and selectors will be running out of patience with him sooner rather than later.

Mohammed Shami has been impressive, with his accuracy and movement always demanding respect. It may be time to forge a seam attack around him.

After a disappointing outing for Ravichandran Ashwin in Johannesburg, Ravindra Jadeja stepped into the breach and did well enough to get six wickets. This may make the left-arm spinner India's premier spinner for the timebeing, but a return of 6-138 can hardly be described as running through a side.

It is especially the case when his South African counterpart Robin Peterson picked up four wickets in the second innings to pave the way for victory.


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