MUMBAI, Feb 10 (IANS): India's cricket selectors dropped out-of-form Gautam Gambhir and included off-spinner Harbhajan Singh for the first two Test of the four-match series against Australia starting later this month.
The Sandip Patil-headed selection committee, that met at the Cricket Centre here Sunday, also included two opening batsmen Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, who were impressive for Rest of India against Mumbai in the Irani Cup.
Vijay was part of the Test squad against England while Dhawan was selected ahead of veteran Mumbai opener Wasim Jaffer, who has been in good form this season.
Harbhajan was dropped from the squad for the fourth Test against England but has come back after a strong performance in the Ranji Trophy. Harbhajan, who replaces Piyush Chawla, will be third spinner in the side along with Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.
Among the pacers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar retained his place in the side following a strong performance in the ODIs against Pakistan and England. Ishant Sharma and Ashok Dinda are the other fast bowlers while Parwinder Awana, who was in the side during Tests against England, faced the axe.
Another opening batsman Ajinkya Rahane, who scored 83 in the first innings of the Irani Cup match, also managed to retain his place in the squad but Suresh Raina, who struck a century and a fifty in both the innings, failed to attract the attention of the selectors.
Dhawan was rewarded for his consistent performance in the domestic circuit. The Delhi boy has scored 833 first-class runs this season at an average of 55.53, including four hundreds and three fifties. He has scored 524 runs, including two hundreds and two fifties, at an average of 47.63 from eight Ranji Trophy matches. He also struck 110 for Delhi against England XI in a warm-up fixture ahead of the five-match ODI series that was won by India.
Board secretary Sanjay Jagdale in a statement said Gambhir replaces Dhawan in the India A side that will play a three-day warm-up game against Australia Feb 16-18. Gambhir will lead India A.
Indian squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Murali Vijay and Ishant Sharma.