Ankit Bawne to lead India A in first four-day match with England Lions
Ankit Bawne has played 89 first-class matches. © PTI

Ankit Bawne has been named captain of India A for the first four-day match versus England Lions starting February 7 at Wayanad, with KL Rahul, Shardul Thakur and Varun Aaron featuring in the 14-man squad.

Bawne, who plays for Maharashtra in domestic cricket, has been a part of the India A setup over the past year and averages 72.33 in 16 innings, with one century and three fifties. (READ MORE: Rishabh Pant, Shardul Thakur star as India A go 4-0 up against England Lions)

Rahul, who was recently cleared to play cricket by the BCCI after he was suspended for comments made on an Indian talk show, slots into the squad after a disappointing tour of Australia. In three Tests, he managed 57 runs of which 44 came in one innings. In 2018, Rahul averaged 22.28 from 12 Tests.

The other openers in the India A squad are Bengal’s Abhimanyu Easwaran who scored 861 runs in six Ranji Troph 2018-19 matches for an average of 95.66, and Gujarat’s Priyank Panchal who made 898 at 59.86 from nine games. Mumbai’s Siddhesh Lad and Hyderabad’s Ricky Bhui are the middle-order batsmen along with Bawne.

Jalaj Saxena: the only player in Ranji Trophy history to score a century and claim an eight-wicket haul in an innings in a single match - twice.
Jalaj Saxena: the only player in Ranji history to score a century and claim an eight-wicket haul in an innings in a single match – twice.

The designated wicketkeeper is Andhra’s KS Bharat who scored 363 runs in the Ranji Trophy and was part of the India A squad in 2018. Regarded as the best domestic wicketkeeper, from January 2015 to September 2018 he had 141 catches and 14 stumpings which is the most in first-class cricket by an Indian.

Aaron, Shardul, Avesh Khan and Navdeep Saini are the four fast bowlers picked, with Jalaj Saxena, Shahbaz Nadeem and Mayank Markande the spinners. Nadeem is an India A regular having taken 51 first-class wickets for the squad, whereas Saxena has played only sporadically. The allrounder claimed 28 wickets and scored 551 runs to help Kerala reach the Ranji semi-finals for the first time ever.

The legspinner Markande topped Punjab’s wicket tally in the Ranji Trophy with 29 at 23.34 apiece.

Aaron, who has played nine Tests and nine ODIs for India, was Jharkhand’s leading wicket-taker this Ranji season with 25 from seven games. Former India Under-19 bowler Avesh Khan was the best bowler for Madhya Pradesh with 35 wickets in seven games. Shardul recently recovered from injury that cut short his Test debut in November. Saini, another India A regular, toured New Zealand late last year and this month has played four games against the touring England Lions.

India A squad for first four-day game: Ankit Bawne (capt), KL Rahul, AR Easwaran, Priyank Panchal, Ricky Bhui, Siddhesh Lad, KS Bharat (wk), Jalaj Saxena, Shahbaz Nadeem, Mayank Markande, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, Avesh Khan, Varun Aaron