Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel are back in India’s spin-heavy squad for the first two home Tests against England. Mohammed Shami, who is working his way back from an ankle injury, is a notable absentee, though.
Vice-captain Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar and Avesh Khan make up the seam attack while R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja make up the spin attack along with Kuldeep and Axar.
While Shami was optimistic about making a return for the England Tests, the selectors and the BCCI medical staff might have wanted to give him further rest as a precautionary move. The 33-year-old fast bowler has not played any competitive cricket since the ODI World Cup final in November last year.
Dhruv Jurel, the Uttar Pradesh player, earned his maiden call-up to the India side – in any format – as the back-up keeper to KL Rahul, who had kept wickets in the two Tests in South Africa, and KS Bharat.
Ishan Kishan, who had taken a break from the two-match Test series in South Africa and the ongoing T20I series at home against Afghanistan, wasn’t part of this squad as well. Avesh Khan, who was recently called up to the India Test squad in South Africa as a replacement for Shami, retained his spot. The 27-year-old has played eight ODIs and 19 T20Is so far, but he is uncapped in Test cricket.
However, Prasidh Krishna, who made his Test debut in Centurion, was not named in the squad. The fast bowler had sustained a quadriceps injury on the first day of Karnataka’s second-round Ranji Trophy clash against Gujarat in Ahmedabad. The Karnataka team physio is currently taking care of Prasidh, but as a BCCI-contracted player, he can also link up with the India A support staff, who are also in Ahmedabad for the two-day match against the touring England Lions.
Jurel had recently scored a half-century for India A in a four-day first-class fixture against South Africa A in Benoni and is currently playing against Lions in Ahmedabad. In all, he has played 15 first-class games and averages nearly 47. His journey to the top has not been straightforward. He was vice-captain of the India Under-19s at the World Cup four years ago and more recently made heads turn at the IPL in 2023 scoring 152 runs at an average of 22 and strike rate of 173 for Rajasthan Royals.
Ashwin is on the brink of two major landmarks in Test cricket. He is ten strikes away from 500 wickets in the format and five matches away from 100 Tests. The five-match series against England will begin in Hyderabad on January 25 and will be part of the World Test Championship (WTC). India are currently second on the WTC points table, behind defending champions Australia.
India squad for first two Tests against England
Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), KS Bharat (wk), Dhruv Jurel (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah (vice-capt), Avesh Khan