NEW DELHI:Virender Sehwag was on Wednesday handed out a fresh lifeline with the national selectors springing a surprise by recalling him while also naming rookie paceman Pankaj Singh in India's 16-member Test squad for the grueling cricket tour of Australia.
Sehwag, who did not figure in the list of 24 probables, got the nod after Gautam Gambhir was ruled out of the tour beginning later this month because of a sore shoulder.
The 22-year-old Pankaj Singh, the Rajasthan paceman who has caught the eye with his sterling performances in domestic cricket, was the lone new face in the squad announced by BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah after the selection committee meeting here.
Some of India's key players like Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Zaheer Khan and Rudra Pratap Singh, who missed the third Test against Pakistan because of injuries, were included in the squad, having recovered from their fitness problems.
Barring the selection of Sehwag and Pankaj, there were no other surprises in the squad, which has seven batsmen, five pacemen, two spinners and two wicket-keeper batsmen.
"Gambhir has a sore shoulder and according to the report of physio John Gloster, he will need three weeks of rest. That is why he was not considered for selection," Shah said.
While wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik retained his place, paceman Munaf Patel was omitted from the squad with the selectors wanting him to play more domestic matches before returning to international cricket.
"Munaf Patel is advised more match practice before his selection for international matches, so he will be seen in Ranji Trophy," Shah said.
Shah said the Indian team will leave for Australia from Mumbai on December 17. The team is scheduled to play the first Test at Melbourne on December 26.
For Sehwag, it turned out to be an expected recall to the longer version of the game after a gap of nearly one year. He had lat played a Test for India against South Africa in Cape Town in January this year.
After being in the wilderness for sometime, Sehwag first came to the national team for the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa with moderate success.
Many former cricketers including former Australian captain Ian Chappell were surprised at the selectors' decision to leave out Sehwag from the list of probables, saying conditions in Austalia would suit his game.
The dashing Delhi batsman has generally been successful on bouncier tracks and the tour of Australia will provide him an opportunity to revive his sagging career.
Pankaj Singh, who has been preferred ahead of an injury-prone Munaf Patel, has taken 73 wickets from 23 first class matches will be an unknown package for the Aussies.
With the squad packed with pacemen, it appears unlikely that the young pacmen would get the coveted Test cap during the series.
Paceman Ajit Agarkar, opener Aakash Chopra, spinner Murali Kartik and wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel, who figured in the list of probables, could not make the cut.
Parthiv, who had done well during the last tour Down Under and has also been in good form in domestic cricket would consider himself unlucky to miss out on a berth.
Chopra, another player who had done well on the tour of Australia in 2003 and also scored heavily in Ranji matches, could not impress the selectors enough to force a comeback.
The team to be captain by Anil Kumble has a well settled batting line-up comprising the likes of Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Anil Kumble (Captain), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, M. S. Dhoni (Vice Captain), Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, Wasim Jaffer, Ishant Sharma, R P Singh, Zaheer Khan, Dinesh Karthik, Virendra Sehwag, Pankaj Singh