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Gambhir and Ishant return

Principal Correspondent

CHENNAI: India's 15-man squad for the three-Test home series against New Zealand includes V.V.S. Laxman, opening batsman Gautam Gambhir and pace bowler Ishant Sharma, all of whom missed the second Test against Australia in Bangalore due to injury. The series begins with the first Test in Ahmedabad on November 4.

The side, announced here on Monday by the All India Senior Selection Committee, contains the three players who participated in the first match against Australia in Mohali despite being inconvenienced — Gambhir and Ishant by knee injuries and Laxman by a back spasm.

Laxman's replacement for the Bangalore Test, Cheteshwar Pujara, who made a quick-fire half-century on debut in India's chase of 207, and Murali Vijay, who came in for Gambhir and struck a first-innings hundred, have been retained. Yuvraj Singh, however, continues to miss out on a Test spot.

Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth, along with Ishant, strengthen the pace unit, while the spin obligations rest on Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha.

“The team has been doing very well. It has great balance and is capable of doing well in any situation. The squad has balance in both bowling and batting which puts pressure on the opposition. We have batsmen who can attack and batsmen who can defend. This team doesn't need tailor-made tracks, as we proved in Mohali against Australia, where Zaheer (Khan) was Man-of-the-Match for his bowling on an Indian wicket,” said K. Srikkanth, Chairman, selection committee.

“Our bench strength is a good sign. The youngsters who have got their opportunities have done well under pressure,” he added.

After Ahmedabad, New Zealand is scheduled to play a Test each in Hyderabad (November 12-16) and Nagpur (November 20-24), followed by a five-match ODI series that courses through Guwahati, Jaipur, Vadodara and Bangalore before coming to a conclusion in Chennai on December 10.

The squad: M.S. Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Gautam Gambhir, M. Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, S. Sreesanth, Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra .

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