India drop Sehwag, call up Pujara
India have dropped Virender Sehwag for the first three matches of the five-ODI series against England, which begins on January 11 in Rajkot. The decision came after Sehwag was left out of the XI that beat Pakistan in an ODI in Delhi earlier in the day. India gave a maiden limited-overs call-up to Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored 203 off 221 balls in a Ranji Trophy match last week.
A BCCI source told ESPNcricinfo that this could well be the end of Sehwag's limited-overs career. Sehwag has been dropped, said the source, because "he doesn't figure in the plans for the 2015 World Cup". Pujara has been brought in "to anchor the innings, especially in the wake of new rules", which now allow a maximum of two bouncers per over and require a minimum of five fielders inside the circle at all times, which encourages more attacking bowling. The selectors have left it to the team management to decide Pujara's batting position.
Pujara's inclusion was the only change to the squad that lost 1-2 to Pakistan, which meant MS Dhoni, India's best batsman in the series, kept his captaincy despite calls from former selectors for fresh leadership. The sources said Dhoni's captaincy didn't go through much of a debate.
Rohit Sharma was retained despite poor returns in ODIs of late. His last six scores were 5, 0, 0, 4, 4 and 4. Since the end of the series against West Indies in 2011, when he was the Man of the Series, Rohit has averaged 13 over 14 matches with one half-century. Rohit escaped the axe primarily because of "lack of alternatives". He might not have made it had Manoj Tiwary been fit.
Since his double-century against West Indies in December 2011, Sehwag has averaged 23 over 11 matches, including a top score of 96. Sehwag is possibly seen as the weaker fielder, which becomes significant keeping in mind the World Cup in Australia.
Sehwag's replacement, Pujara, is quick in the field and has been scoring runs. After his double-century that stunned Madhya Pradesh six days ago, Pujara said he knew his time was not far away. "That [ODI selection] is something that is not in my control," Pujara had told ESPNcricinfo. "I have always performed in domestic one-dayers. I don't need to worry about it. My time will come. One way or the other I will get my chance to play in the ODI team. I just need to keep performing."
The bowlers were all retained after they successfully defended 167 against Pakistan on Sunday, India's fourth-lowest score batting first in an ODI win.
Squad: MS Dhoni (capt), Cheteshwar Pujara, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Amit Mishra.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo