India will be without three of their first-choice batsmen in the first two tests against England after openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, and middle-order batsman Rohit Sharma were ruled out due to injuries.
Fast bowler Ishant Sharma returned to the 15-man squad after missing the test series against New Zealand due to illness while uncapped all-rounder Hardik Pandya received a first call-up to the national side for the longer format.
Right-hander Rohit, who bats in the middle order in the test team, suffered a thigh injury during the final one-day international against New Zealand.
He was expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks, with a possibility that he may also need to undergo surgery, India’s selection committee chief MSK Prasad told reporters.
“Rohit Sharma has been badly injured and there is a scope of even surgical intervention,” former India wicketkeeper Prasad said. “There is a chance he is going to be assessed in England. He is definitely ruled out for the test series.”
Rahul suffered a hamstring injury during the first test against New Zealand in September and is still recuperating.
His opening partner Dhawan fractured his left thumb after being hit twice in the same area during the second New Zealand test in Kolkata and his place was taken by Gautam Gambhir in the following match at Indore.
Recalled after two years, Gambhir scored a half century in the second innings against New Zealand and is expected to open alongside Murali Vijay when the opening match of the five-test series against England kicks off in Rajkot next week.
Ishant was ruled out of the New Zealand series after failing to recover from the mosquito-borne viral disease Chikungunya but has proved his fitness by bowling extensively in domestic Ranji Trophy matches.
Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered during the second test against New Zealand and was available for selection but overlooked because he had not played a first-class game.
The 23-year-old Pandya, who bowls medium pace and is an useful lower-order batsman, made his 50-over debut for India in the series against New Zealand and has been fast-tracked to the test squad.
“After the Australia A tour his pace has increased, he is able to move the ball much better, his batsmanship has improved,” Prasad said, adding India needed to identify top all-rounders. “He has mellowed down as a person.
“He is one all-rounder we think is an equally competent bowler and a batsman and a good fielder too.”
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were rested in the ODI series against New Zealand and will lead India’s spin attack against the English batsmen, who had a torrid time in their drawn two-test series in Bangladesh recently.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra and off-spinner Jayant Yadav, yet to play a test, are the other slow bowlers in the squad.
England are the last team to have won a series in India when they claimed a 2-1 triumph in 2012 against the hosts, who are currently ranked number one in the International Cricket Council test rankings.
Squad: Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Karun Nair, Virat Kohli (captain), Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Sahs (wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jayant Yadav, Hardik Pandya
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by John O’Brien)