Kohli, Hardik, Ishant return to India's 18-member squad for England Tests

Ishant Sharma celebrates a wicket Getty Images

Even as the dust settles on India's historic series win in Australia, the new selection panel, chaired by Chetan Sharma, met virtually on Tuesday to pick India's squad for the first two Tests against England in Chennai. Among the big outcomes were the return of Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma to an 18-member squad.

Kohli, who missed the last three Australia Tests to attend the birth of his first child, will take over the captaincy, as expected. Ishant, meanwhile, returns after proving his match fitness in the league phase of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s for Delhi. Ishant hasn't played Tests since February last year, having missed the Australia tour after picking up an abdominal injury in the IPL. He is currently three Tests short of becoming only the second Indian fast bowler after Kapil Dev to feature in 100 Tests.

Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur were all rewarded for their performances in Australia, having been retained in the squad, while T Natarajan, brought into the Test squad in Australia after a spate of injuries to the first-choice pacers, was left out. Siraj finished the Australia tour with 13 wickets in three Tests, the highest for India, while Thakur picked up seven wickets to go with his crucial half-century in Brisbane.

The spin department will be spearheded by R Ashwin, despite concerns over his back tweak that forced him out of the series-deciding Brisbane Test. Washington Sundar retains his place along with Kuldeep Yadav, who featured in just the one while-ball game in Australia. Sundar had a sensational debut in Brisbane, in which he made two vital contributions with the bat along with four wickets. The selectors decided to also have a reinforcement in Axar Patel, the left-arm spinning allrounder, who is uncapped in Tests.

More to follow