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October 12, 2010
Shikhar Dhawan, the Delhi opener, is the only new face in a weakened 14-man squad for the three-ODI series against Australia which starts on Sunday. As many as seven first-choice players, including Sachin Tendulkar, have been omitted from the squad; while Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Pragyan Ojha have been rested, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma have been left out with minor injuries.
Dhawan, 24, scored a century in the Challenger Trophy earlier this week and was a regular member of the Mumbai Indians' march to the IPL final this year. He was also Delhi's highest scorer in the domestic one-day tournament last season, making 355 runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. The absence of India's three established one-day openers - Tendulkar, Gambhir and Sehwag - has provided the opportunity for Dhawan, who is likely to be accompanied by Tamil Nadu's M Vijay at the top of the order.
"It was always at back of my mind that if I keep performing well I will get a chance," Dhawan told ESPNcricinfo. "The IPL was a great learning experience. It's like an international tournament, playing with paaji [Tendulkar, with whom he opened the innings for Mumbai Indians] playing such a level gives you lots of confidence. if I get a chance to play for India I'll be more confident since I've played at that kind of level."
Dhawan already has played with many players who are important members of the Indian team. Besides Tendulkar, he was a team-mate of Harbhajan and Zaheer for Mumbai in the IPL, and the national team has plenty of Delhi players - Sehwag, Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Ashish Nehra. "That is going to help a lot since I won't feel out of the team," Dhawan said. "Though I am a youngster and just getting in, there is already a comfort level with several of the team-mates."
Another player for whom this will be a big series is Tamil Nadu offspinner R Ashwin, who forms the spin department along with Ravindra Jadeja. Ashwin was instrumental in Chennai Super Kings' title wins in the IPL and the Champions League Twenty20 this year and could get several matches since the spinners ahead of him in the pecking order, Harbhajan and Ojha, are missing.
Saurabh Tiwary, the Jharkhand batsman who has been part of the squad for the past two one-day tournaments without getting a match, has been included, as has Karnataka medium-pacer Vinay Kumar, who played one ODI during the Zimbabwe tour earlier this year.
Squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Saurabh Tiwary, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Vinay Kumar, Ravindra Jadeja, Rohit Sharma
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