However, Ishant’s participation will be subject to a fitness clearance, following a grade-three tear in an ankle during the Ranji Trophy in January. He is currently in rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.
With Rohit Sharma ruled out, the toss up for the second opener to partner Mayank Agarwal could be between Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw. Shaw and Agarwal are also part of the ODI squad.
Gill has the backing of runs under him, having smashed 83 and an unbeaten 204 for India A in the first four-day fixture in Christchurch against New Zealand A. Shaw, meanwhile, has been in good limited-overs form, having impressed in the one-day leg of the India A series in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav was left out of the squad altogether, with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja picked as the frontline spin options alongside five pacers. Interestingly, almost exactly a year ago, on February 5, 2019, India head coach Ravi Shastri had called Kuldeep “our primary overseas spinner” in Test cricket, following his five-wicket haul in the Sydney Test in January. It remains his last Test appearance. Navdeep Saini, who is uncapped in Tests, was also rewarded with a call-up. Rishabh Pant retained his place alongside first-choice Wriddhiman Saha, who has recovered from a finger injury he sustained during the Bangladesh Test in Kolkata.
Shaw had last played Test cricket in October 2018. After cracking a 154-ball 134 on debut in Rajkot, Shaw was selected for the following Australia tour, but an ankle injury sidelined him from the entire series. Later in 2019, Shaw was suspended for a doping violation. As a result, he missed the West Indies tour and then the home series against West Indies and Bangladesh.
Upon returning to action in the Ranji Trophy, Shaw sustained a shoulder injury, but recovered in time, and proved his form and fitness for India A on their shadow tour of New Zealand. Earlier during the Ranji Trophy, he had hit a career-best 202 against Baroda, setting up a massive victory for Mumbai.
Bumrah, too, had missed the home Test series against South Africa and Bangladesh with injury, and eased his way back into action during the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka. In January, he had also been pulled out of the Ranji Trophy, but has now regained his rhythm after playing a starring role in India’s 5-0 sweep of New Zealand in the T20I series. Bumrah will also be in action in the three-match ODI series, which starts on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane will tune up for the Tests by turning out for India A in the second four-day fixture, which begins on February 7.
The first Test will begin in Wellington on February 21 and the second in Christchurch on February 29.