Dhawal, Balaji in Test squad for New Zealand series (Lead)

February 13th, 2009 - 4:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan SinghChennai, Feb 13 (IANS) Mumbai pacer Dhawal Kulkarni is the only new face in the 16-member Indian Test squad scheduled to tour New Zealand while Tamil Nadu paceman Lakshmipathy Balaji is back in the team after a prolonged injury-enforced break.
Also returning to the Indian squad is off-spinner Harbhajan Singh who missed the recent tour of Sri Lanka owing to injury, while wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik figures in all the three squads as a cover for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

The national selection committee that met here Friday announced the Indian teams for the three Test matches, five ODIs and two Twenty20 matches for the New Zealand series starting Feb 25.

The tour commences with two T20 games on Feb 25 and 27, followed by the ODI series (March 3, 6, 8, 11, 14) and the Test matches (March 18-22, March 26-30, April 3-7).

For the Test matches, Kulkarni and Balaji fortify the seam attack that also includes frontline bowlers Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel, keeping in mind the expected seamer-friendly conditions in New Zealand.

The selectors thus made two changes in the team that beat England 1-0 in the two-Test series last year. Balaji replaces left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha who was in the squad but did not make his Test debut and Kulkarni comes in for middle-order batsman Subramaniam Badrinath.

The ODI and the T20 teams are the same with the exception of Sachin Tendulkar replacing Ravindra Jadeja for the 50-over format.

Kulkarni, who was the top wicket-taker along with Jadeja in the just-concluded Ranji Trophy tournament with 42 wickets, has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks after consistent performances with the India A team besides Mumbai and West Zone.

Balaji, who replaced an injured Munaf Patel in the ODI series against Sri Lanka earlier this month, underlined his fitness with 36 wickets in seven Ranji games this season after recovering from a stress fracture that kept him away for three seasons.

The 27-year-old seamer returned to mainstream cricket last year when he played for Tamil Nadu in the Subbaiah Pillai one-day tournament and the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League T20 tournament with an overhauled run-up and action.

In the process, Balaji proved wrong his detractors who had written him off and has since worked hard to regain his form and fitness that had made him a frontline India bowler four years ago.


Twenty20: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar and Dinesh Karthik.

ODI series: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, Harbhajan Singh and Dinesh Karthik.

Tests: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Murali Vijay, Amit Mishra, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni and Dinesh Karthik.

Manager: Niranjan Shah (for T20 and ODI series)

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