Yusuf and Ojha get maiden call-ups
Yusuf Pathan, a right-hand batsman, and Pragyan Ojha, a left-arm spinner, have been called up to the 15-member squad for the tri-series in Bangladesh and the Asia Cup in Pakistan next month. Dinesh Karthik and Munaf Patel, who played in the CB Series, failed to make the cut.
The inclusion of Yusuf, who is the half-brother of Irfan Pathan, was on expected lines after his stand-out performances for the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League. He has scored 334 runs at 27.83 from 13 innings with three fifties, and recorded the fastest half-century of the Twenty20 tournament: off 21 balls against the Deccan Chargers. He also took five wickets at 41.60 with his offspin.
Ojha was one of exceptions in an otherwise lacklustre performance by his team, Deccan, who lost 12 off their 14 matches. He took 11 wickets at 25.81, and his best figures were 2 for 18 in their IPL opener against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
However Venkatapathy Raju, the former India left-arm spinner who is also one of the national selectors, said IPL performances had not carried much weightage in picking the squad. "Our team did well in Australia and we kept in mind injuries to players in our selection", Raju told Cricinfo. "Murali Kartik was injured and he opted out so we were looking for another left-arm spinner and Ojha's advantage is his height. He was the selectors' choice and not a recommendation from the captain."
Yusuf, meanwhile, was a unanimous choice, Raju said, based on his recent performances. Apart from the selectors, Dav Whatmore, the National Cricket Academy director, Gary Kirtsen, the coach, Niranjan Shah, the board secretary, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni attended the meeting.
Ojha first came in to the limelight last August when he picked up 22 wickets in India A's tour of Kenya, including 9 for 85 in a three-day fixture that India won by an innings and 87 runs.
In four List A games last season, Yusuf scored 92 for Baroda, while Ojha, picked up six wickets for Hyderabad. Their first-class record was better, with Yusuf getting 441 runs at 44.10 from seven Ranji games and Ojha topping Hyderabad's wickets list with 24 at 31.87 from six matches.
Squad Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Piyush Chawla, Pragyan Ojha.