Harbhajan still out for India
New Delhi - India recalled fragile pace spearhead Zaheer Khan on Saturday for the Australia tour pending a fitness test, but continued to ignore seasoned spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni will lead the 17-man squad with Virender Sehwag as his deputy for the four-Test series starting next month, the Indian cricket board said in a media release.
Injury-prone Zaheer, 33, has been sidelined since damaging a hamstring on the opening day of the Test series in England in July and later also underwent ankle surgery.
The left-armer's injury triggered a free-fall by the Indians, who were blanked 4-0 in the Test series to lose their No 1 ranking to the hosts, before being humbled 3-0 in the one-dayers.
Zaheer, who has been training at the nets for the last month, must prove his fitness in two first-class games for Mumbai before his selection is confirmed.
India will hope Zaheer, who has 273 wickets from 79 Tests, is declared fit because the rest of the bowling attack is very inexperienced.
Apart from fellow-seamer Ishant Sharma, who has played 41 Tests, the remaining five specialist bowlers have just 26 Test appearances between them.
Harbhajan, whose 406 wickets in 98 Tests make him the most successful international bowler still playing at the top level, has been out of favour since the dismal tour of England.
The 31-year-old off-spinner bagged just two wickets at an average of 143.50 in the two Tests he played there before heading home with an abdominal strain.
Harbhajan, who has fully recovered from the injury, has been involved in domestic cricket and also captained the Mumbai Indians to the title in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who has replaced Harbhajan for the home series against the West Indies, picked up 22 wickets in the three Tests to confirm his place for the Australian tour.
The squad includes two batsmen, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, without Test experience, while reserve wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and fast bowler Varun Aaron have played only one match each.
India open the three-month tour on December 15 with two practice matches in Canberra ahead of the first Test starting at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 26.
The remaining Tests will be played in Sydney, Perth and Adelaide.
This will be followed by two Twenty20 internationals, before Sri Lanka join in for a one-day tri-series from February 5.
The Indian team for the limited-overs leg of the tour will be named later.
India's Test squad:
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Praveen Kumar.
Coach: Duncan Fletcher (ZIM)