While Hardik is part of just the one-day leg of the tour, Shaw has been named in both the 50-overs and four-day squads, and will be in the race to be India’s back-up Test opener with former India Under-19 team-mate Shubman Gill. While Mayank Agarwal and Rohit Sharma opened in all five Tests of India’s home season, against South Africa and Bangladesh, Gill was part of the reserves as the third opener.
Gill will captain India A’s one-day squad, while middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari will lead a strong four-day contingent. Test regulars Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha are all expected to feature in the second four-dayer, ahead of the two-Test series starting on February 21 in Wellington.
Hardik hasn’t played international cricket since September, and underwent back surgery in London in October when he decided that “managing the injury” – he recently said he had done this for five years – was no longer an option.
On Monday, chief selector MSK Prasad confirmed to journalists after the selection meeting that “Hardik would be looked at in the third week of January”, which is around the time the one-day leg of India A’s tour is scheduled. The three-match ODI series against New Zealand is slated to begin on February 5.
Meanwhile, Shaw returned to competitive cricket in November after the completion of a backdated eight-month suspension for a doping violation. He struck form immediately, scoring 240 runs in five innings, including three half-centuries, for Mumbai in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He followed that up with scores of 66 and 202, his maiden first-class double century, in Mumbai’s 309-run win over Baroda in their Ranji Trophy opener earlier this month.
KL Rahul is a notable absentee from the four-day India A squad, with the selectors seemingly happy to look at the next generation of talent. Rahul lost his Test berth to Rohit after the tour of West Indies in July-August, but has been in prolific white-ball form for Karnataka and India since.
Two other prolific domestic openers, Priyank Panchal and Abhimanyu Easwaran, will be part of the squad for the first four-dayer, which will also feature the promising fast bowlers Sandeep Warrier, Ishan Porel, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Siraj and Avesh Khan.
India A squad for two tour matches and three one-day games: Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill (capt), Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Axar Patel, Rahul Chahar, Sandeep Warrier, Ishan Porel, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Siraj
India A squad for 1st four-day game: Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Priyank Panchal, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Shubman Gill, Hanuma Vihari (capt), KS Bharat (wk), Shivam Dube, Shahbaz Nadeem, Rahul Chahar, Sandeep Warrier, Avesh Khan, Mohammed Siraj, Ishan Porel, Ishan Kishan
India A squad for 2nd four-day game: Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Hanuma Vihari (capt), KS Bharat (wk), Shivam Dube, R Ashwin, Shahbaz Nadeem, Sandeep Warrier, Avesh Khan, Mohammed Siraj, Ishan Porel