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Dhawal Kulkarni surprise pick for Kiwi tour


Posted: Feb 13, 2009 at 1322 hrs IST

Chennai: Rookie Kulkarni gets surprise call; Balaji, Kaarthick return


Rookie Mumbai pacer Dhawal Kulkarni earned a surprise call up to India's Test squad while fit-again speedster Lakshmipathy Balaji and his Tamil Nadu team-mate Dinesh Kaarthick staged a comeback for the gruelling tour of New Zealand starting next week.

The 20-year-old Kulkarni, who first came into the limelight in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League, has been rewarded for his consistent show in the domestic circuit.

Apart from Kulkarni's inclusion, there were no major surprises in the teams -- Test, ODI and Twenty20 -- that were picked here after a meeting of the National selection Panel headed by former India captain Krish Srikkanth.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and paceman Munaf Patel, both of whom missed the recent ODI series against Sri Lanka, have returned to all the three squads.

Balaji, who returned to the one-day fold as a replacement for Munaf during the series against Sri lanka, forced his way back into the Test reckoning with a splendid performance as Tamil Nadu's pace spearhead in the domestic circuit.

The selectors opted to take two wicketkeepers for the 48-day tour, comprising three Tests, five one-dayers and two twenty20 matches. Kaarthick pipped Gujarat captain Parthiv Patel to be Mahendra Singh Dhoni's back-up.

The selectors have not tinkered much with the ODI and the Twenty20 squads, which by and large are the same that won the ODI series against Sri Lanka 4-1 and beat them in the one-off T20 game.

Opener Murali Vijay was retained in the Test squad which, however, has no place for left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who figures in the ODI and Twenty20 squads.

Veterans Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman have been picked only for the Test series, while Sachin Tendulkar will play the Test and ODIs but has opted out of the Twenty20 matches.

Considering the seaming conditions in New Zealand, the selectors opted for just two specialist spinners in Harbhajan and Amit Mishra for the Test matches, while picking a five-pronged pace attack.

The Test squad has three specialist openers, five middle-order batsmen and a reserve wicketkeeper in Kaarthick. Zaheer Khan, who has been excellent form in recent times, will spearhead the pace attack which also includes Ishant Sharma, Munaf, Balaji and Kulkarni.

The Indian team will leave for New Zealand on February 19 and will start the tour with a Twenty20 match at Christchurch on February 25. The next Twenty20 game will played in Wellington on February 27. The ODI series starts March 3, while the Test series will get underway from March 18.

Kulkarni, a right-arm medium pacer, came into spotlight after his performance for the Mumbai Under-17 team during the 2005-06 Vijay Merchant Trophy.

In the 13 first-class match he has played so far, Kulkarni has taken 49 wickets at an average of 22.02 and an economy rate of 2.94.

For Balaji, who had been laid low by a back injury, it is a comeback after almost four years, having played his last Test against Pakistan in Bangalore in March 2005.

Kaarthick had played his last Test against Sri Lanka at Galle in July-August last year.

Test Squad:

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Amit Mishra, Dinesh Kaarthick, L Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni, Murali Vijay.

ODI Squad:

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Dinesh Kaarthick, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan.

Twenty20 squad:

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Dinesh Kaarthick, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja.

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