Yuvraj, Nehra included in T20 squad for Australia series
Allrounder Yuvraj Singh and pacer Ashish Nehra have both returned to India's T20I squad for the upcoming series against Australia. Yuvraj has not played for India since the 2014 World T20 final, while Nehra's last international game was in 2011.
The selectors made six changes to the T20 squad that lost 2-0 to South Africa in October, including a maiden call-up for 22-year-old allrounder Hardik Pandya.
There was no place in either the ODI or T20 team for Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny and Amit Mishra, while Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja were recalled to both squads.
Shami made the cut after completing his recovery from a knee injury he suffered during the previous tour of Australia, in December 2014, while Jadeja's rich vein of form in the Ranji Trophy and the recently-concluded South Africa Tests also earned him a spot in the 15-man squad. Harbhajan Singh, who made an international comeback during the South Africa series in October, kept his place in the T20 squad, but was dropped from the ODI team.
Yuvraj, the Man of the Series during India's World Cup win in 2011, was included on the back of strong performances in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, where he is currently the third-highest run-getter with 341 runs at an average of 85.25.
"Yuvraj Singh will always remain special." Sandeep Patil, the chairman of selectors, said. "The selectors are very happy, and the captain is also very happy to have him back. We cannot promise any player whether he will be part of the next tour or the World Cup. We want every player to perform and every player has a chance to come back in the team."
He said the selection of senior players like Yuvraj and Nehra was to give the selection committee an opportunity to assess them ahead of the World T20. "We have introduced and given many youngsters [opportunities], which we are very happy about," Patil said. "This game is not only of youngsters, this game also needs to have experience. And we are looking at the World Cup T20 championship in India where we will certainly need experienced players."
He was subsequently left out of the international scene, but continued to attract big bucks in the IPL; he was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs 14 crore in 2014, before being signed by Delhi Daredevils for Rs 16 crore in 2015. His form, though, continued to be inconsistent, as he managed just 248 runs from 14 matches at an average of 19.07 in IPL 2015.
Nehra, in stark contrast, was one of the best performers in the last IPL, picking up 22 wickets from 16 matches to help Chennai Super Kings into the final. Nehra has played just one match since then, but Patil felt the seamer's experience would come in handy.
"Keeping in mind World T20, this is a chance for a lot of players to use as a platform. Those who have not been selected, they were all discussed. We have extended the pool.
"Nehra is a consistent performer in the T20 format. He will be useful in the team. We will need experienced players in the World T20, and the Australia tour is perfect chance to give them a shot.
The BCCI also confirmed that MS Dhoni would continue to captain both the ODI and T20I teams till the 2016 World T20, quelling speculations surrounding his future.
"There were a lot of stories going around," Patil said. "Selectors wanted to send a very clear cut message to all, to the media and the players - and I am not talking about India team players - but general players, that who is going to be our leader.
"There is only three months time. I am happy that all selectors were of the same opinion that Dhoni should be the captain till the T20 World Cup. What happens after that we will let you know after the T20 World Cup."
T20I squad: MS Dhoni (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Harbhajan Singh, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra