Yuvraj, who overcame cancer earlier this year, had made a return to international cricket in the Twenty20 version of the game but none other than skipper MS Dhoni had expressed his concerns over whether Yuvraj had achieved the fitness levels to outlast the rigour of Test cricket.
The selectors believed he did.
They decided to drop Suresh Raina and pick Yuvraj for what will potentially be the No.6 spot in the batting line-up.
One of the selectors present at the meeting held in Mumbai, which was attended by Dhoni, said that the Indian skipper wanted the selectors to retain the same squad that played the two Tests versus New Zealand at home.
However, by dropping Raina and bringing back Yuvraj and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh — one of the three spinners in the squad, along with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha — the selection committee made two significant changes to the squad that played the Black Caps. Harbhajan, part of India’s World T20 squad, last played a Test versus England in Nottingham 15 months ago.
“Dhoni wanted us to retain the team that played against New Zealand but Yuvraj has been among the runs, while we believe that Harbhajan Singh, who has over 400 Test wickets, should be part of the squad as we are playing a very important series,” a selector said. “Harbhajan has been given a lifeline but keeping in mind his experience we are confident that he will be an asset,” the selector added.
Patil and Co. were convinced that Yuvraj had proved his match fitness in the longer format of the game by hitting a double hundred for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy. If the selectors needed further proof it was tabled when Yuvraj made a half-century and took five wickets while playing for India A versus England.
These performances were good enough for the selectors to put their faith in Yuvraj over Raina, whose half century versus New Zealand in Bangalore was a bright spot in an otherwise patchy run chart.
The selectors also seemed to have taken note of the poor run India’s experienced openers, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, are experiencing and have recalled Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane, both back-up openers in the team.
The lack of big opening partnerships by Sehwag and Gambhir was discussed in the selection committee meeting but their past record and match-winning potential meant that they received a longer rope, a selector said. Both Sehwag and Zaheer Khan, who hardly bowled on Sunday for Mumbai, were declared fit before the selectors named the team. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav complete the fast bowling line-up.
Team: M S Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha.