Under-performing opener Gautam Gambhir was shown the door with Shikhar Dhawan being his surprise replacement in the 15-member Indian cricket squad, announced on Sunday for the first two Tests against Australia starting February 22 in Chennai.
Senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh rode on past reputation to return to the squad to form a three-pronged spin attack also comprising R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. With Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav and Irfan Pathan recovering from injuries, the selectors opted to give rookie paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who impressed in the limited overs-series against England and Pakistan, his maiden Test call.
The Sandeep Patil-headed selection committee deliberated for over two hours at the BCCI headquarters here before annnouncing the three major changes to the squad that played against England in Nagpur in December. The 32-year-old Harbhajan, who was dropped from the team after the lost third Test against England in November, has been brought back, keeping in mind his excellent record against Australia.
The off-spinner, who has 408 wickets in 99 Tests, is a proven performer against the Australians especially on the dustbowls at home and that reputation alone seems to have worked for him given that his domestic form this season has hardly been impressive.
On the other hand, the 31-year-old Gambhir, for whom a Test hundred has proved elusive for over three years now, became the biggest casualty of India's 1-2 home debacle against England last year.