Ajinkya Rahane will lead a mostly full-strength team against Afghanistan. © AFP

Ajinkya Rahane will lead a mostly full-strength team against Afghanistan. © AFP

Karun Nair earned a recall to the Indian Test team after 15 months in the wilderness while Rohit Sharma found himself dropped from the squad for the one-off Test against Afghanistan in Bangalore from June 14.

India’s national selectors met in Bangalore on Tuesday (May 8) to pick five teams – three senior sides in the three different formats, and two India A squads – and had to contend with a serious juggling act, eventually arriving at a mix of the tested and the promising.

There was an international return after nearly two years for Ambati Rayudu, the Hyderabad captain who is the leading run-scorer currently in the Indian Premier League 2018. Rayudu has been picked in a 16-man One-Day International squad that will take on England in a three-match series in July.

KL Rahul also is back in the ODI scheme of things after being dumped following the series in Sri Lanka in August-September. With Rayudu and Rahul returning, Ajinkya Rahane, propped up as a potential No. 4 at the World Cup in England and Wales next year, has been axed.

With Virat Kohli opting for a stint with Surrey in June and therefore unavailable for Afghanistan’s maiden Test, the captaincy has been entrusted to Rahane, who had led India to the series-clinching victory against Australia in Dharamsala in March 2017. Apart from Kohli and the dropped Rohit, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, two of the pace bowling heroes on the tour of South Africa earlier this year, have been rested. Shardul Thakur finds a place in the 15-man team, while there is a comeback for Kuldeep Yadav, the left-arm chinaman bowler.

“Except Virat, all the Test specialists are playing this match,” said MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors. “Only Virat is missing out for a good cause. He is going out so that he comes well prepared for the England Test series. It is always good that he goes there and performs well and he is very keen. He himself wants to do extremely well in English conditions. It is a great opportunity for us to win the series.

“Here, it is an opportunity that only Virat has got. That’s why we have left him (to county cricket). The rest, I don’t think they have got it (county contracts). We are more than happy, the way they have been doing.”

Nair, India’s only Test triple centurion apart from Virender Sehwag, last played in the said Dharamsala Test, but having failed to top up his 303* against England in Chennai in December 2016, made way for Rohit once the latter recovered from thigh surgery. Prasad said his panel thought it was time to relook at Nair, given his impressive run in the domestic season gone by, while other sources suggested that Rohit himself was looking at concentrating on the shorter formats.

Contrary to speculation, the core group that lost the Test series in South Africa 1-2 has been retained, the selectors rightly resisting the temptation to blood a plethora of youngsters. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, currently on county duty with Yorkshire and Sussex respectively after going unsold in the IPL auction, will return to lead the batting and bowling responsibilities against the debutants.

Rayudu, who averages a staggering 50.23 in 34 ODIs and yet has been superfluous to India’s ODI set-up, has broken the doors down with his sheer consistency in the IPL, as well as very good domestic season. Siddarth Kaul, the uncapped Punjab pacer, too has been included in the 50-over outfit.

Before the ODI series in England, India will play two Twenty20 Internationals in Ireland towards the end of June and then travel to England for three further T20Is. After the limited-overs legs, Kohli’s men will take on the hosts in five Test matches, starting in Birmingham on August 1.

Also going against perception, the India A side that will play England Lions in two four-day games and Windies A in one four-day fixture is not filled with those expected to feature in the Test team. Nair will lead the four-day team while Shreyas Iyer will be in charge of the India ‘A’ side that will play a triangular one-day series against the Lions and Windies A.

Rahul, M Vijay, R Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha and Mohammed Shami will join the India A side for the last of the four-day games, against England Lions at New Road in Worcester from July 16.

Prasidh Krishna, the 22-year-old Karnataka paceman, breaks into the India A one-day side while Rajneesh Gurbani, who played a lead role with the ball in Vidarbha’s march to their maiden Ranji Trophy title, figures in the ‘Test’ team. “When it comes to Prasidh, he played the Deodhar Trophy last year itself in Visakhapatnam and he was very impressive. We kept track of him,” Prasad revealed. “I can clearly say that he was one of the best bowlers in this year’s Vijay Hazare Trophy. He along with Mayank (Agarwal) and a few good performances from the others took their team to the final. That’s why he has been rewarded. On his own, he has won many matches for Karnataka. In the same way, if you see Gurbani, the way he won the games for Vidarbha, literally won the Ranji Trophy for them. So domestic performances have been taken into consideration and given due importance.”

Indian squads:

Afghanistan Test: Ajinkya Rahane (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Karun Nair, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Shardul Thakur.

England & Ireland T20Is: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Siddarth Kaul, Umesh Yadav.

 England ODIs: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Ambati Rayudu, MS Dhoni (wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Siddarth Kaul, Umesh Yadav.

India A squads:

One-day tri-series: Shreyas Iyer (capt), Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Shubhman Gill, Hanuma Vihari, Sanju Samson (wk), Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant (wk), Vijay Shankar, K Gowtham, Axar Patel, Krunal Pandya, Prasidh Krishna, Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Shardul Thakur.

Four-day matches: Karun Nair (capt), R Samarth, Mayank Agarwal, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prithvi Shaw, Hanuma Vihari, Ankit Bawne, Vijay Shankar, KS Bharat (wk), Jayant Yadav, Shahbaz Nadeem, Ankit Rajpoot, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Rajneesh Gurbani.