Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane during the first Test against Australia in Adelaide
Ajinkya Rahane (left) will be making way for Virat Kohli for the home Test series against England. Image Credit: AP

Kolkata: Virat Kohli, the regular Indian captain, returned to the national side from his ‘paternity leave’ as the Indian cricket board announced the Test squad to take on England in the first two matches of the upcoming four-match series on Tuesday. Both Test matches will be held at Chennai, with the first one being held from February 5-9 and the second one from February 13-17.

Allrounder Hardik Pandya and senior fast bower Ishant Sharma, who were not part of the just-concluded Test series in Australia, have made a comeback to the side. Ishant missed the series Down Under due to an injury he suffered during the IPL 2020 while Hardik was omitted as he hadn’t resumed bowling after undergoing a back surgery.

Pace ace Jasprit Bumrah and senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who missed the fourth Test against Australia due to injuries, have also been named in the squad. The selectors have opted for an extra spinner in Axar Patel, along side the likes of Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav and Washington Sundar.

Mohammad Siraj, who had a dream series in Australia to finish as India’s leading wicket-taker with 13 wickets, has found a place while Shardul Thakur, who had an impressive overseas debut, has also been included in the side. In addition, the selectors have also named four reserve players K.S. Bharat, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Shahbaz Nadeem, Rahul Chahar and Priyank Panchal.

Earlier, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) congratulated the Indian team for scoring a 2-1 Test series win in Australia and announced a cash bonus of Rs 50 million for the members of the team.

Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI President said in a statement: ‘‘We are extremely proud of the series win. Beating Australia in Australia by a young team will remain etched in the history of Indian cricket forever. It cannot get better than this. I am so proud of everyone. Congratulations to Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Shastri and the rest of the touring party for this remarkable feat.’’

‘‘Heartiest congratulations to every member of the Indian cricket team. The team overcame the odds, injuries and a tough opposition and showed great character, resolve and courage to win the historic Test series in Australia for the second time in a row. This success on Australian soil will inspire the next generation of cricketers,’’ said BCCI secretary Jay Shah.

The Squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Vice-captain), KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), R. Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur.

Net bowlers: Ankit Rajpoot, Avesh Khan, Sandeep Warrier, Krishnappa Gowtham, Saurabh Kumar.

Standby players: K S Bharat, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Shahbaz Nadeem, Rahul Chahar, Priyank Panchal.