Calcutta: As expected, Virender Sehwag has been dropped from the Indian squad for the third and fourth Test against Australia.
That Sehwag's place was under the scanner was reported by The Telegraph on Wednesday.
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 Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Sanjay Jagdale.
Barring Sehwag's ouster, 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 victories in Chennai and Hyderabad.
Sehwag's long-time opening partner Gautam Gambhir, who too was going through a rough patch, was dropped from the squad for the first two Tests. He remains out of favour.
The absence of Sehwag and Gambhir means that India would have to field a completely new opening pair in tests.
Though Ajinkya Rahane is also in the squad, it understood that he has been chosen as a middle-order batsman.
Sehwag and Gambhir have been opening partners since 2004. Together they have scored 4412 runs in 87 innings and are ranked fifth in the all-time list of top opening pairs with an average of 52.52.
India have had a rocking series against Australia so far, winning both the Tests convincingly. But that didn't hide the failure of Sehwag. In fact, the three innings that India have played so far has seen opening partnerships of 11, 16 and 17 runs.
Sehwag's last notable contribution opening the innings in Tests was the century he scored in the first match against England, in Ahmedabad, in November-December last year. Since then, Sehwag's Test scores have been 25, 30, 9, 23, 49, 0, 2, 19 and 6.
India have quite a few overseas assignments, beginning with the tour of South Africa late this year. Tours of New Zealand and England follow the contest against the Proteas. The omission of both Sehwag and Gambhir means that the selection committee, headed by Sandeep Patil, are ready to look beyond the tried and tested combination.
Dhoni has said on numerous occasions that the team is going through a transitional phase following the retirement of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Dhoni's job will be more difficult now, but it's also a challenge for the fresh brigade to prove their mettle. Mohali is the first stop.
Middle-order: Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane
Wicket-keeper: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain)
Spinners: Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin
Pacers: Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar