India axe Harbhajan for first two one-dayers

India axed spinner Harbhajan Singh on Thursday and drafted in the uncapped Sreenath Aravind and Rahul Sharma for the first two one-day internationals against England next month.

Senior players Sachin Tendulkar (toe), Virender Sehwag (shoulder) and Yuvraj Singh (finger) have not recovered from injuries and were left out of the 15-man squad for the matches on Oct. 14 (Hyderabad) and Oct. 17 (Delhi).

“A number of senior players are not fit…it provides a great opportunity for the youngsters to prove themselves,” chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth told reporters in Chennai.

India’s batting received a boost with opener Gautam Gambhir, who suffered concussion in England, returning to the side.

Harbhajan struggled in England, managing just two wickets in the first two tests before an abdominal strain cut short his tour.

The 31-year-old with over 400 test wickets declared himself fit for the series against England but the selectors persisted with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.

The slow bowling department will also include Punjab leg-spinner Sharma, who has been consistently among the wickets in the Indian Premier League.

Karnataka left-arm pacer Sreenath Aravind will also hope to make his international debut against England.

India and England will play three more one-dayers in Mohali (Oct. 20), Mumbai (Oct. 23) and Kolkata (Oct. 25).

Kolkata will host a one-off Twenty20 international on Oct. 29.

India failed to win a single match against England on their recent tour. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team lost the test series 4-0 and were knocked off the top of the world rankings by their hosts.

“We are confident we will do well in home conditions,” Srikkanth said.

“It is a very good combination and we did not compromise on quality. We thoroughly scrutinised the players’ fitness and I’m sure they will deliver.”

Squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Parthiv Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar, Sreenath Aravind, Rahul Sharma, Manoj Tiwary and Praveen Kumar.

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