Senior batsman Yuvraj Singh has been dropped from the 15-member Indian limited overs squad that will play five ODIs and a one-off T20 international against Sri Lanka, commencing August 20 in Dambulla. Manish Pandey has been brought back to the Team India fold after a successful tour with the ‘A’ team in South Africa. Frontline spinners, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, and leading fast bowlers, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami, have been rested. Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are the three spinners picked, while Shardul Thakur has been drafted in as the third seamer. The MSK Prasad-led selection committee has also taken away Ajinkya Rahane’s vice captaincy, appointing Rohit Sharma as Virat Kohli’s deputy. Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant, who went to the West Indies, were omitted.
For Yuvraj, fitness became a bigger issue than his form, it is learnt. The left-hander looked a pale shadow of his former self during the Champions Trophy, both with the bat and in the field. Still, he went to the Caribbean for the ODIs after the ICC event as an unchanged squad had been named. But Yuvraj injured his hamstring while fielding during the second ODI and took no further part in the series. It needs to be seen if the game at North Sound on June 30 eventually becomes the international swansong for the 35-year-old. With the focus shifting towards the 2019 World Cup, his return to top flight fold appears unlikely.
When the erstwhile selection committee, chaired by Sandeep Patil, had brought Yuvraj back to international cricket in the early 2016, it was a middle-order quick-fix with an eye on the World T20. But he retained his place after the tournament and got into the ODI squad as well, after a gap of nearly four years. A match-winning 150 against England in Cuttack secured his berth for the Champions Trophy, where he scored 105 runs in five matches including a 32-ball 53 in India’s opening fixture against Pakistan. His next six innings in the ODIs after that half-century, however, were unproductive. Overall, since making the comeback last year, Yuvraj scored 372 runs in 11 ODIs at an average of 41.33. In T20 internationals, he made 209 runs in 18 matches during that period. But the chief selector and team management seem to be in the process of identifying a younger middle-order, with eyes fixed on the quadrennial showpiece two years hence.
Could it also be a veiled warning to MS Dhoni? Perhaps. However, while the former captain’s strike-rate and finishing prowess have waned of late, he is still supremely fit and remains electric behind the stumps.
And an in-form Pandey perfectly fits the bill for a middle-order slot after three half-centuries — 55, 86 not out, 93 not out — in South Africa. The Karnataka batsman had failed to build on his match-winning 104 not out against Australia at the SCG in January last year. But he now has another opportunity to cement his place. Also, the 27-year-old is arguably the best outfielder in the country, along with Ravindra Jadeja.
As for the spinners, Ashwin had bowled 904.2 overs last season three formats combined. Jadeja had 778.5 overs under his belt last term.
Then, they had the Champions Trophy followed by the West Indies tour and the ongoing Test series in Sri Lanka. India would be playing 23 international matches at home over the next four months and the workload of the spin-bowling duo had to be managed. Axar Patel is already there with the Test squad and his selection for the limited-overs leg came along the expected lines. Kuldeep was an automatic pick and Chahal, the 27-year-old Haryana leggie, has done enough in T20 internationals to earn an ODI call-up.
Rohit gets vice-captaincy
Rohit, rested for the West Indies tour, gets the vice-captaincy ostensibly because Rahane is not an automatic playing XI pick in limited-overs cricket, especially now that KL Rahul has returned to the team. In fact, the squad now boasts of four openers — Rohit, Rahul, Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan.
Team: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma (vice captain), KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur