Kohli, Hardik, Ishant return to India’s 18-member squad for first two England Tests

Ishant Sharma is three short of 100 Tests © Getty Images

Less than a week after the sudden passing away of his father, Hardik Pandya received some good news as he has been included in India’s 18-man squad for the first two Tests of home series against England. ESPNcricinfo understands the national selectors also handed a call-up to left-arm spinner Axar Patel to strengthen the spin department.

The squad was finalised on Tuesday by the newly assembled Indian selection committee lead by former India fast bowler Chetan Sharma. Also attending the meeting virtually was regular Indian captain Virat Kohli, who had returned home in December from the Australia tour to attend the birth of his first child. Also present at the meeting, which took place hours after India’s epic triumph in the Gabba Test, were the four other selectors: Sunil Joshi, Abey Kuruvilla, Debashish Mohanty and Harvinder Singh, who is in Brisbane.

The selectors have also named four stand-bys who will be inducted into the squad in case of anyone from the main squad was to be replaced. These standbys, essentially back-ups, will not be travelling with the India squad, but will be pulled out of the second domestic tournament, which the BCCI will announce shortly, if there is a requirement.

Among the standbys, all of whom have featured in India A, are India and Jharkhand left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, Andhra wicket-keepr KS Bharat, Bengal opening batsman Abhimanya Easwaran and Rajasthan legspinner Rahul Chahar.

Also part of the enlarged squad, which has become a norm due to the pandemic, will be five net bowlers comprising: the fast bowling trio of Ankit Rajpoot (Uttar Pradesh), Avesh Khan (Madhya Pradesh) and Sandeep Warrier (Kerala). There are also two spinners among the net bowlers: Karnataka left-arm bowling allrounder K Gowtham and Uttar Pradesh left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar.

Main squad:

Openers: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal

Middle-order: Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul (subject to fitnsess after first Test)

Fast bowlers: Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur

Spinners: R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel

Standbyes: KS Bharat (wicketkeeper), Abhimanya Easwaran, Shahbaz Nadeem, Rahul Chahar

Net bowlers: Ankit Rajpoot, Avesh Khan, Sandeep Warrier, K Gowtham, Saurabh Kumar

More to follow.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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