The national selectors attempted to strengthen an Achilles’ Heel — the all-rounder’s position — by bringing in Gurkeerat Singh Mann into India’s ODI squad for the first three matches against South Africa.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra, too, has been recalled to the limited-overs fold after one year, but the uncapped Punjab all-rounder was the story of the selection meeting, held in Bangalore on Sunday. Left-arm seamer Sreenath Aravind is another uncapped player who has been picked, but that’s for the three T20 internationals.
With Ravindra Jadeja losing form and out of favour, there’s a vacancy at No.7 and Gurkeerat has earned his selection by scoring an 85-ball 87 not out and taking 2/42 for India A in the tri-series final against Australia A, and then building on the momentum, giving a match-winning performance (65 off 58 balls and 5/29) in the first one-dayer against Bangladesh A.
The 25-year-old also had 287 runs (strike-rate 80.16) in the last season’s Vijay Hazare Trophy, although he bowled only 11 overs (three wickets) in nine matches. Gurkeerat, along with Ajinkya Rahane, is arguably the best outfielder in the country and should be a good value addition to the Indian team.
“We’ve picked Gurkeerat looking at his all-round ability. Having more all-rounders is the need of the hour. Gurkeerat has come up very well over the last two years. We’ve seen him in the India A matches and also in domestic cricket where he plays for Punjab. And we are happy with the way he performed,” chief selector Sandeep Patil said.
The selectors have provided captain MS Dhoni with another option at No.7 by including Stuart Binny who bowls seam up and bats with aggression.
Mishra’s return to the shorter formats wasn’t surprising given the way he performed (157 runs, 15 wickets) in Sri Lanka, albeit in the longer format. He was preferred over Harbhajan Singh who played three ODIs in Zimbabwe. The off-spinner, however, has been chosen for the T20 internationals. Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel are the other two specialist spinners in the squads.
Patil, with BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur by his side, confirmed that they haven’t discussed anything about limited-overs captaincy. “We are very happy with the way Dhoni has led. He has our total backing for this series.”
And with Dhoni leading the team and attending the selection meeting, it wasn’t unusual that the squads have been overloaded with medium pacers. In fact, the T20 team doesn’t have a single tearaway quick as Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Aravind and Binny made the list. The ODI side has one proper fast bowler in Umesh Yadav.
“We discussed this with the captain. Looking at the wickets.Pitch factor comes into play and we’ve chosen accordingly,” Patil explained. “We wanted variations. We wanted to give opportunities to those who’ve done well in the ‘A’ series,” he said about Aravind’s selection.
Shami misses out
Fast bowler Mohammed Shami wasn’t considered. The Bengal pacer has recovered from a knee surgery but after a six-month injury lay-off, he was never in contention. Shami has to prove his match fitness in domestic cricket and the Ranji Trophy fixtures before the last two ODIs allow him the opportunity to hit his straps.
Shikhar Dhawan, who suffered a hairline fracture in his right hand in Sri Lanka, has been cleared to play against South Africa. The three-match T20 series starts in Dharamsala on October 2. The five-match ODI leg begins on in Kanpur on October 11.
T20Is: MS Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Amit Mishra, S Aravind.
First 3 ODIs: MS Dhoni, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav.