Virat Kohli, who had been rested from the ODI series against Sri Lanka, has been rested for the T20 leg too. This means Rohit Sharma will lead the limited-overs sides in Kohli's absence. The T20 squad includes three new faces: 18-year-old Tamil Nadu allrounder Washington Sundar, Baroda batsman Deepak Hooda and Kerala quick Basil Thampi. The trio, along with Saurashtra seamer Jaydev Unadkat, who last played international cricket in June 2016, have been rewarded for their impressive performances in domestic cricket and IPL.
Shikhar Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have also been rested from the T20 squad. Instead, KL Rahul, who hasn't played limited-overs internationals since September, could open with Rohit. Jasprit Bumrah, who has earned his maiden call-up to the Test squad, will lead a new-look seam attack, which also includes Hyderabad fast bowler Mohammed Siraj, who leaked 53 runs on T20I debut against New Zealand last month.
"Virat, Bhuvi, and Shikhar have all been rested keeping the South Africa tour in consideration," MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, said. "With regard to the youngsters, someone like Basil Thampi, Siraj, Hooda, Shreyas Iyer - all these players have been doing really well in domestic cricket. After doing well in domestic cricket we have given them opportunities in India A tours to South Africa and against New Zealand here [at home]. Considering all those performances and taking performances of the top-class IPL we have considered these names."
The focus on MS Dhoni's place in the T20I side has been intense recently. In the second T20I against New Zealand in Rajkot last month, he barely went at a run a ball when the game was alive, which put pressure on Kohli in a steep chase of 197. Amitabh Choudhury, the BCCI's acting secretary, however, said there were no discussions about Dhoni's place in the side.
Both Washington and Unadkat had played starring roles in Rising Pune Supergiant's run to the IPL final earlier this year. Unadkat finished as the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 24 wickets in 12 matches at an economy rate of 7.02, the highlight being a triple-wicket maiden while defending 12 off the last over against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Washington managed only eight wickets but his economy rate of 6.16 and tight lines and lengths in the Powerplay stood out. He was then picked to play for the Indian Board President's XI in a 50-over game against the touring Australians and showed his worth again, claiming the wickets of Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell while giving away only 23 runs in his eight overs.
Thampi was Gujarat Lions' second-highest wicket-taker in the IPL and subsequently made the India A sides for the tour of South Africa and the home series against New Zealand A. Hooda has been known for his big-hitting since his Under-19 days and can also bowl offspin.
The first of three T20s will be played in Cuttack on December 20.