India's Squad for 2014 Tour of England: Breaking Down All 18 Members

Jaideep Vaidya@@jaideepjournoAnalyst IMay 28, 2014

India's Squad for 2014 Tour of England: Breaking Down All 18 Members

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    Three years after suffering a humiliating 4-0 defeat as world champions and the No. 1 Test team in the world, the MS Dhoni-led Indian team returns to the scene of the crime for a five-Test series in England.

    India will start the tour with two practice games before the first Test against England begins on July 9 at Trent Bridge, followed by matches at Lord's, The Ageas Bowl, Old Trafford and The Oval. India will be playing a five-Test series for the first time in 12 years, the last occasion being a tour of the West Indies back in 2002.

    India arrive as the fifth-ranked Test team in the world, with England ranked third. Dhoni's men will be looking to end a miserable run away from home, where they haven't won a single Test in three years.

    The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Wednesday announced a surprisingly large squad of 18 for the Test series, which includes some interesting hits and misses. Only three members who toured in 2011 have survived and found a place in the current squad, including skipper Dhoni.

    Here is a look at all 18 members of the touring party.

1. MS Dhoni (Captain)

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    Right-hand bat, wicketkeeper

    Age 32

    The 32-year-old Indian captain is of course an automatic pick and will be touring England for the third time. 

    Dhoni will look to be among the runs as his form in Tests in the last 12 months hasn't been up to the mark. In six Tests, he has scored just 250 runs at an average of just above 27.

    If you pick out Dhoni's numbers away from home in Tests in the last three years, it shows his struggles. In 14 matches, he has managed only 623 runs at an average of under 26, with no hundreds. 

    India will be banking on their captain to come good for them on such a crucial tour. As an added onus on the skipper, Dhoni also won't have the experience of players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman by his side to aid him this time around.

    He is the oldest member of a young squad, which has only three players on the wrong side of 30.

2. Murali Vijay

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    Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

    Right-hand bat, opener

    Age 30

    At 30 years of age, Murali Vijay is one of the oldest members of the Indian squad, but has played only 22 Tests since his debut in 2008. 

    In the first few years of his career, Vijay was undone by the presence of a settled opening pair in Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. But since February last year, he has found a regular place at the top of the order following the dip in form and eventual sacking of the duo.

    After hitting two centuries against Australia at home in 2013, Vijay had one good outing during India's two-Test tour of South Africa at the end of last year, where he scored a 97 at Durban. But he failed miserably in New Zealand earlier this year, scoring just 48 runs in two Tests.

    Vijay is expected to open for India at Trent Bridge, but he will find Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane snapping at his heels. Another poor tour could lead to him being dropped yet again, which he would want to avoid.

3. Shikhar Dhawan

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    Left-hand bat, opener

    Age 28

    After launching his international career with the fastest century on Test debut against Australia last year, Shikhar Dhawan has blown hot and cold in the six Tests that have followed.

    He had below-average series against West Indies and South Africa, before finding form in New Zealand with 115 at Auckland and 98 at Wellington.

    Dhawan is expected to keep his place at the top of the order along with Vijay, but a poor first couple of matches in England could put his spot in danger with Gambhir lurking.

4. Gautam Gambhir

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    Left-hand bat, opener

    Age 32

    The third member of the Indian squad above 30, Gambhir last played a Test for India back in December 2012, against England at home. Following a long barren run—his last Test century had come way back in 2010—Gambhir was dropped from the team in favour of Dhawan.

    After almost 18 months out, the 32-year-old has worked his way back into the squad following a good domestic season in which he scored 578 runs in 13 innings in the Ranji Trophy. 

    Gambhir has also had a decent Indian Premier League season in 2014, with 312 runs in 15 matches at last count, and he has led Kolkata Knight Riders to the final.

    Gambhir may not find a place in the starting XI at Trent Bridge, but he could be drafted in at a later stage in the series if either Vijay or Dhawan fail to click.

5. Cheteshwar Pujara

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    Right-hand bat, middle order

    Age 26

    India's Test specialist batsman has never toured England in his three-and-a-half-year international career and will be hoping to have a good trip.

    Averaging a shade under 59 in 19 Tests played, 26-year-old Cheteshwar Pujara is one of India's brightest prospects in the longest version of the game and India will be banking on him to come good in the seamer-friendly conditions in England.

    A technically gifted batsman, Pujara has the ability to thrive in alien conditions unlike most Indian batsmen in history. He proved this in South Africa last year, scoring 153 at Johannesburg and 70 at Durban.

    He did not have a particularly good tour of New Zealand, managing just 60 runs in four innings, and he will be looking to put that behind him and start fresh in England.

6. Virat Kohli

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    Right-hand bat, middle order

    Age 25

    Easily the most in-form batsman in the Indian camp, Virat Kohli is also touring England for a Test series for the first time and is expected to continue with his golden run.

    Just 25 years and 24 Tests old, Kohli is already touted to take over Dhoni as India's next captain after lighting up the scene since his debut in 2011. Kohli has scored 1,721 runs in 24 matches at 46.51, including six centuries and nine fifties. He has also recently been handed the all-important No. 4 spot in the batting line-up following the retirement of Tendulkar.

    He goes into the series in red-hot form, after a ton and a fifty each against South Africa and New Zealand. Together with Pujara, Kohli forms the mainstay of India's middle order and the team's fortunes highly depend on his form.

    Another extremely talented batsman in all conditions, the England tour will be a huge test for Kohli and it will be interesting to see how he incorporates his aggressive style of batting in seaming and swinging conditions. 

7. Ajinkya Rahane

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    Right-hand bat, middle order

    Age 25

    A classical opener by trade, Ajinkya Rahane has been deployed in the lower middle-order for all of his five Test matches played.

    The 25-year-old debuted for India during the home series against Australia last year and was denied an earlier entry due to an established batting order including big names such as Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman.

    A consistent performance in the domestic circuit meant that he could no longer be ignored and Rahane finally found a place in the team following the retirement of India's golden generation.

    Even though he has been played out of his preferred opener's slot, Rahane has impressed in the lower middle-order with a couple of fifties in South Africa and a century at Wellington.

    Rahane will be touring England for the first time and his textbook style of batting will be welcomed by the crowds.

8. Rohit Sharma

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    Right-hand bat, middle order

    Age 27

    Rohit Sharma began his Test career last November on steroids, smashing 177 and 111 not out against the West Indies at home. However, his travails away from home have exposed his vulnerability to foreign conditions conducive to seam bowling.

    In South Africa, Sharma managed to score just 45 runs in four innings, coming in at No. 5. Later, during the tour of New Zealand, he only had a half-century to boast of in four more innings.

    Only six Tests old, the England tour will be a massive test of Sharma's temperament and abilities facing quality seam bowling.

9. Ravindra Jadeja

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    Left-hand bat, slow left-arm orthodox bowler

    Age 25

    One of only two all-rounders named in the India squad, Ravindra Jadeja (25) has been a revelation in the last couple of years in international cricket.

    He made his Test debut during India's home series against England in late 2012 and since then has been a regular member of the squad, playing a match or two in each series.

    Jadeja is a batting all-rounder in the shorter formats of the game, where he is an integral member of the playing XI, but he has performed better with the ball in Test matches.

    His eight Tests have yielded him 36 wickets, compared to just 187 runs with the bat, but Dhoni could be tempted to use him as an extra batsman should the Indians struggle to score runs.

10. Ravichandran Ashwin

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    Right-arm off-spin bowler

    Age 27

    An off-spinner by trade, Ravichandran Ashwin has earned the reputation of being a good bowling all-rounder, having scored two centuries in his 19-Test career (both at home).

    Ashwin became the fastest Indian to 50 and 100 Test wickets, but he has proven to be ineffective away from home. Out of his 104 Test wickets, only nine have come in four away matches.

    After a poor series in Australia in 2011-12, Ashwin played just one Test during India's tour of South Africa last year and didn't play a single match in New Zealand, with India preferring to go with Jadeja.

    Ashwin is not guaranteed a spot in the starting XI at Trent Bridge and would be looking to perform well in the tour matches, should he get an opportunity to play.

11. Bhuvneshwar Kumar

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    Right-arm medium bowler

    Age 23

    Swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar hasn't exactly set the stage alight since his debut last year against Australia at home, but his movement in the air and control while bowling should thrive in UK conditions.

    Kumar has never played a Test away from home and will be hoping he gets a game against England, although he faces stiff competition with six other medium-fast and fast bowlers in the Indian squad.

    Although he has taken just nine wickets in six Test matches, Kumar's handiness with the bat could prove to be an advantage over others.

12. Mohammed Shami

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    Right-arm fast-medium bowler

    Age 24

    Mohammed Shami is one of the certainties to make the starting XI among the bowlers after impressive performances since his debut last November against the West Indies at home.

    In just six Test matches, he has already scalped 27 wickets with a best of five for 47. The 24-year-old fast bowler performed formidably during the tour of New Zealand, picking up 10 wickets in two Tests.

    Shami regularly clocks in the 140s (kilometres per hour), bowls a tight line and could prove a handful for the England batsmen.

13. Ishwar Pandey

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    Right-arm medium bowler

    Age 24

    The 24-year-old Ishwar Pandey has impressed in the last couple of domestic seasons in India, being the leading wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy in 2012-13 with 48 wickets in eight matches and then recording 30 more in eight games in 2013-14.

    Pandey was drafted in the Indian squad that toured New Zealand earlier this year and played a tour match, but he is yet to make his international debut.

    Pandey isn't particularly fast and clocks in the 130s, but he is tall and gets good bounce, and he maintains a good line and length.

14. Ishant Sharma

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    Right-arm fast-medium bowler

    Age 25

    Having played 55 Test matches, 25-year-old Ishant Sharma is the most experienced bowler in the Indian squad. However, a Test career bowling average of over 37 shows that he has not been able to keep up with the consistency that he showed earlier in his career. 

    Ishant is one of only three members of the squad who visited England for the previous tour in 2011. He would want better returns than the 11 wickets he took in four Tests the last time around. 

    Ishant's place in the team is being challenged by the new crop of seam bowlers, but he is likely to start at Trent Bridge due to his two six-wicket hauls against New Zealand.

15. Stuart Binny

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    Right-hand bat, right-hand medium bowler

    Age 29

    Stuart Binny is an all-rounder who bowls medium pace and was picked on the back of a solid domestic season in which his Karnataka team won the Ranji Trophy.

    Binny played a single one-day international during India's tour of New Zealand and also played a game in the Asia Cup, but he is yet to play a Test.

    Binny is unlikely to be used in the Test series against England unless both Jadeja and Ashwin are injured or perform miserably.

    However, he could be a handy bowler in the swing-friendly conditions.

16. Varun Aaron

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    Right-arm fast bowler

    Age 24

    Varun Aaron is the fastest bowler available to India in their announced squad, clocking in the high 140s and early 150s. However, he has been unable to match his pace with control and accuracy.

    Aaron has played one Test for India, back in 2011, which was a selection made purely on the basis of his pace. However, he has been plagued with injury throughout his career and has proved inconsistent whenever he has played.

    A decent IPL season in 2014 was probably what earned him a call-up to the squad. But it's highly unlikely that he'll get to play a game in the Test series.

17. Wriddhiman Saha

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    Right-hand bat, wicketkeeper

    Age 29

    The reserve wicketkeeper in the squad, Wriddhiman Saha is likely to warm the bench for the entire series unless MS Dhoni gets injured. A decent gloveman, the 29-year-old Saha has been undone due to his inferior batting abilities and Dhoni's Herculean rise.

18. Pankaj Singh

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    Right-arm medium-fast bowler

    Age 29

    After years of being ignored by the Indian selectors in spite of strong and consistent domestic performances, 29-year-old medium-fast bowler Pankaj Singh finally finds his name in the national squad. 

    In the last five years, Singh has recorded 196 wickets in the Ranji Trophy, including 39 scalps at 22.46 in the 2013-14 season. He has already taken 300 wickets in first-class cricket.

    Singh has been desperate for a place in the Indian squad and was contemplating quitting the game in a couple of years if he was not given a call, as reported by ESPNcricinfo.

Notable Absentees

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    The most notable name missing from the squad list was that of Zaheer Khan. The 35-year-old pacer had just returned to the Indian team during the South African tour after a year out. Zaheer took a four-for in his first match back and went on to record a five-for against New Zealand as well. 

    After playing six matches in !PL 2014, Zaheer was ruled out of the rest of the tournament due to injury, but he was expected to be fit before the start of the England tour. The reason for Zaheer's exclusion is still not clear, although one explanation could be his vulnerability to injury.

    During India's tour of England in 2011, Zaheer broke down in the second session of the first Test and didn't play again in the series.

    Fast bowler Umesh Yadav is another surprising exclusion. Although the 26-year-old hasn't played for India in Tests since late 2012, he has always featured in the squads. His exclusion points to the fact that the selectors have decided to look elsewhere, with Umesh not able to fight his way back into the reckoning.

    Middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu was also expected to be named in the squad and would have provided a good back-up.