Agence France-Presse . Chennai
India’s cricket selectors on Friday picked Lakshmipathy Balaji for the New Zealand tour, after a four-year Test absence for the fit-again seamer.
Balaji, 27, who last played a Test match in March, 2005 before suffering a career-threatening stress fracture to his back, was named in a 16-man squad for the three-Test series against the Kiwis.
The Tamil Nadu seamer, regarded as one of India’s brightest new-ball prospects, claimed 27 wickets in eight Tests before being laid low by injury.
Balaji joins a five-man seam attack that includes 20-year-old rookie Dhawal Kulkarni, who took 41 wickets in his maiden first-class season to help Mumbai win the Ranji Trophy last month.
The selectors, who announced the team through a media release, retained the nucleus of the squad that beat Ricky Ponting’s Australia 2-1 and England 1-0 in home Test series late last year.
But only six players—Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Venkatsai Laxman, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh —- have played a Test on New Zealand soil before.
The selectors also picked a separate limited-overs squad for two Twenty20 matches and five one-day internationals that precede the Test series.
Tendulkar, who has shunned Twenty20 internationals in recent months, will be replaced by Ravindra Jadeja for the shortest version of the game.
The last time India toured New Zealand in December 2002, they lost both Tests with totals of 161, 121, 99 and 154 in the four innings on bowler-friendly greentop wickets.
New Zealand also went on to win the subsequent one-day series 5-2.
India open the six-week tour with the Twenty20 internationals on February 25 and 27 before playing the one-day series against the hosts from March 3.
The tourists, who will not play any practice matches, start the three-Test series in Hamilton on March 18.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag (vice-capt), Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Murali Vijay, Dinesh Karthik, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni.\
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag (vice-capt), Gautam Gam-bhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Praveen Kumar.
(Ravindra Jadeja will replace Tendulkar for the Twenty20 matches).
India’ schedule in New Zealand:
Feb 25 : First Twenty20 international, Christchurch
Feb 27 : Second Twenty20 international, Wellington
March 3 : First one-dayer, Napier
March 6 : Second one-dayer, Wellington
March 8 : Third one-dayer, Christchurch
March 11 : Fourth one-dayer, Hamilton
March 14 : Fifth one-dayer, Auckland
March 18-22: First Test, Hamilton
March 26-30: Second Test, Napier
April 3-7 : Third Test, Wellington