Kuldeep Yadav India England 2018 Tests
Kuldeep Yadav © AFP (file photo)

Kuldeep Yadav’s sparkling limited-overs form during the ongoing tour of the UK has expectedly earned him a recall to India’s Test squad, while uncapped wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant has been handed his first call-up. India’s selectors met in Leeds on Wednesday the day after Virat Kohli’s team was beaten in the deciding ODI at Headingley to surrender the series to No. 1-ranked England 1-2, and picked a 18-man squad for the first 3 Tests against England starting August 1.

Mohammed Shami has been recalled after proving his fitness recently, slotting in as the sixth pace bowler alongside Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Shardul Thakur and Jasprit Bumrah. The BCCI, in a release on Wednesday, stated that Bumrah will be available for selection only after the first Test and that Bhuvneshwar Kumar, struggling with a lower back condition, is being assessed and that his inclusion “will be made soon”. The uncapped Thakur is Bhuvneshwar’s replacement.

Mohammed Shami India England 2018
Mohammed Shami © Getty Images (file photo)

Shami, 27, returns to the international fold after a six-month absence, having passed the mandatory Yo-Yo test in June which ruled him out of deletion for India’s last Test, against Afghanistan. He last played for India in January when he bowled them to victory in Johannesburg with 5 for 28 in South Africa’s final innings.

With Wriddhiman Saha still out of action as he continues to rehabilitate an injured left thumb, the wicketkeeping duties will likely remain with Dinesh Karthik, who played his first Test in over eight years when he filled in for Saha during Afghanistan’s debut last month.

Pant, currently part of the India A team in England, will serve as understudy unless the team management decides to throw him into the deep when the Test series starts August 1 at Edgbaston. The 20-year-old has delivered on tour, chiefly in the tri-series final that India A won, and then with a counterattacking 67* off 71 balls to help script an eye-catching comeback win against West Indies A in a four-day match. Pant’s keeping has been tidy (he has 15 dismissals on tour) and at the time of the squad announcement he was 37* off 54 balls overnight for India A against England Lions.

Rishabh Pant India England Tests 2018
Rishabh Pant © IANS (file photo)

Similar to the squad that was picked for the Afghanistan Test, this one features Karnataka batsman Karun Nair as a middle-order option, with Rohit Sharma again overlooked. Nair, 26, was recalled as a batting replacement option for the Afghanistan Test but did not get selected. Currently leading India A in England, Nair has First-Class scores of 20, 93, 42, 55 and 2.

Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, India’s most successful Test spin-bowling pair of the last five years, could face stiff competition from Kuldeep, just two Tests old, given the impact he has had against on this tour: 21 wickets an 11.57 and a  rate of 12.7, from 44.3 overs. Ashwin and Jadeja have poor bowling numbers in Tests on English soil, underlined by strike rates of 71 and 104. It would be a bold move to drop one of your two most successful Indian spinners, even more so given the batting options each provides, but as Kohli said during the ODI series “there might be a few surprises” in India’s Test makeup.

The series starts August 1 at Edgbaston, followed by Tests at Lord’s from August 9, at Trent Bridge from August 19, at Rose Bowl, Southampton from August 30 and lastly at The Oval from September 7.

India squad for first three Tests against England: Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Karun Nair, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Mohd. Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur.