Struggling Harbhajan dropped from India squad

Out-of-form off-spinner among several established players who have been left out of the hosts' limited-overs series against England.

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India's cricket selectors on Thursday left out Harbhajan Singh, the star off-spinner, for the first two one-day internationals (ODIs) of next month's home series against England.

The bowler's absence weakens the injury-ravaged world champions, who picked three rookies in a new-look 15-man squad for the first two ODIs in Hyderabad on October 14 and New Delhi on October 17.

Harbhajan, 31, paid the price for a poor Test series in England, where India were humbled 4-0, taking just two wickets in as many matches at an average of 143.50, before heading home with an abdominal strain.

Since making his international debut in 1998, Harbhajan has taken 406 wickets in 98 Tests and 259 wickets in 229 ODIs.

MS Dhoni, the captain, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina are the only survivors from the side that defeated Sri Lanka in the World Cup final in Mumbai on April 2.

Rahul Sharma, 24, the leg-spinner, and the pace bowlers Sreenath Aravind, 27, and Varun Aaron, 21, are without international experience. Aaron was part of the one-day squad in England but did not play a match.

Krishnamachari Srikkanth, the chief selector and former India opening batsman, refused to comment on Harbhajan's exclusion, but urged fans to back the young team.

"Youngsters bring a lot of enthusiasm to the game. They are fit and know they must deliver," Srikkanth said on Thursday.