New Delhi: Leg-spinner Amit Mishra on Thursday staged a comeback into the national Test side after a gap of four years while veteran Harbhajan Singh retained his place in the 15-member squad for the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka.
Barring 32-year-old Mishra's inclusion, there were no major surprise in the team with the selectors retaining as many as 14 players, who had toured Bangladesh for the one-off Test early this month.
The team is as following:
Leg-spinner Sharma was the only player to have been left out due to injury while young batsman Lokesh Rahul retained his place in the squad, announced by BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur after a selection committee meeting, also attended by Test skipper Virat Kohli.
The selectors again ignored veterans such as Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Pragyan Ojha. Ravindra Jadeja, who has not been in good form of late, was again left out from the Test squad.
"Amit Mishra was always in the scheme of things. Last year also he was in reserves. The final XI though is decided by the captain. Looking at the conditions we have picked him for this tour," Chief selector Sandeep Patil said at a press conference.
"Pragyan was discussed but only 15 players can be selected. Looking at the conditions we have given preference to Mishra," he added.
Patil said Karn and paceman Mohammed Shami have still not recovered from their respective injuries that is why "their names were not discussed."
"We always try to get the balance right. This is the best combination for the Sri Lanka tour."
The injury to Karn Sharma made it easy for Amit Mishra to return to the Test fold as none of the other spinners like Ojha, Piyush Chawla and Axar Patel were in contention for a Test berth. Mishra last played a Test against England in August 2011 at the Oval.
Asked whether the selectors discussed seniors like Gambir, Patil said, "They were not discussed."
The selectors opted for a three specialist spinners in R Ashwin, Harbhajan and Mishra while there are four pacers -- Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron.
While Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay will be the openers, the middle order will be manned by captain Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul.
Wriddhiman Saha will be the lone wicket-keeper in the squad, which will play a three-Test series, beginning from August 12.
"Saha is the right option at this stage. It is not easy to replace (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni. Looking at his capability with batting, he should strike a balance," Patil said.
The Chairman of the Selection Panel said performances of the players during the Zimbabwe tour was also taken into account.
"We did discuss the Zimbabwe tour. My co-selectors were there and they have given the feedback. We are very happy with the kind of performances, they have delivered. We are not looking at the age but the fitness of the players and whether the players fit in the team combination," he said.
Asked about the changing complexion of the Test side following Kohli's appointment as captain, Patil said it was obvious.
"After change in captaincy some change will come. It's natural. It depends of captain what period comes. Dhoni did extremely well as Test captain. Hope Virat starts well. It's not right to say what will happen.
"When Sachin Tendulkar, Dada (Sourav Ganguly) and VVS Laxman retired, we thought we will not get good replacements but we did. Out job is to back our players," he said.
Schedule of the Test series:
Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Varun Aaron....