New Delhi: Struggling opener Virender Sehwag was on Thursday dropped from the Indian cricket squad for the third and fourth Test against Australia after a prolonged form slump.
The squad was trimmed to 14 with the selectors deciding against picking a replacement for Sehwag, who has scored just 27 runs in his three innings during the ongoing series.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who has also been struggling to regain his peak form, was, however, retained in the squad announced by BCCI Secretary Sanjay Jagdale.
Barring Sehwag's omission, there were no other changes in the squad for the two matches to be played in Mohali (from March 14) and Delhi (from March 22) respectively. India lead the four-match series 2-0 after thumping wins in Chennai and Hyderabad.
Sehwag's axing comes after his long-time opening partner Gautam Gambhir was shown the door, also due to poor form.
In the absence of Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan could get a chance to open the innings with Murali Vijay, who cemented his place with a gritty hundred in the second Test in Hyderabad, which India won by an innings and 135 runs. (Related: Why Sehwag's loss is Australia's gain, Deano explains)
Even though India registered commanding victories in the first two Tests, the opening partnerships between Sehwag and Vijay could produce only 11, 16 and 17 runs.
Sehwag had failed to fire in five consecutive Tests after getting a hundred in the opening game of the home series against England at Ahmedabad in November-December last year.
He was unable to score even a half-century in two home Tests against New Zealand. During India's last overseas tour, in Australia, Sehwag scored just 198 runs in eight innings. Sehwag's dipping form had former Indian skipper Rahul Dravid worried, although Sunil Gavaskar had backed the tenacious opener.
The rest of the line-up was expectedly retained on the basis of impressive performances.
Except for Sehwag, no other batsman looked like facing the selectors' axe as they came up with solid performances in the first two Tests.
Cheteshwar Pujara, with a double hundred in Hyderabad, was never in doubt, neither was Virat Kohli, who announced his return to form with a hundred in the Chennai Test.
Among the bowlers, spin spearhead R Ashwin has been the most impressive with 18 wickets so far. Harbhajan, on the other hand, is trying to rediscover the vintage form that got him over 400 Test wickets. In the ongoing series, the bowler so far has five wickets in his kitty.
Young pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar has managed to impress with his conviction in the debut Test series but Ishant Sharma will have to do more after a rather ordinary effort.
India Squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/keeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ashok Dinda, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Pragyan Ojha and Ishant Sharma.
Story first published on: Thursday, 07 March 2013 13:43 IST