Vinay and Chawla in World Twenty20 squad
Karnataka fast bowler Vinay Kumar is the only new face in India's 15-man squad for the World Twenty20, while legspinner Piyush Chawla returns to the national side after nearly two years. With both Gautam Gambhir and Ashish Nehra declared fit, the rest of the squad pick themselves, Rohit Sharma retaining his place under massive pressure from Virat Kolhi through ODI runs, and Manish Pandey through a bumper Ranji season and impressive showing in the IPL. Vinay has edged out Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth, both part of India's last Twenty20 squad.
Parallels could be drawn with India's selection of Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan, who were still recovering from injuries, for last year's World Twenty20. Then, as the selectors said later, India had taken the risk and paid for it: Sehwag didn't manage a single game, and Zaheer was not at his best. This time, though, Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of national selection committee, confirmed all players had sent in their fitness certificates, and that there were no fitness worries in the squad.
The selectors resisted the temptation of looking outside the 30 probables they had earlier announced, after Robin Uthappa's fireworks in the IPL, and Irfan Pathan's return to fitness. Instead they went for the tried and tested names there: Rohit in the middle order, and Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja as allrounders. As expected, Jadeja's controversial omission from the IPL didn't hamper his future with the national side.
While the selectors didn't get carried away by a few good performances in the first third of the IPL, Vinay's impressive bowling in the event so far, in addition to yet another big domestic season, was enough for the nod. Vinay, the fourth seamer in the squad, picked 46 Ranji wickets, and as a timely nudge, is currently joint-second on the IPL wicket-takers' list, bagging eight for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The same formula didn't work for his state-mate Pandey, though. He was the leading run-scorer in the Ranji Trophy, and has been valuable for Bangalore in the IPL so far. The selection committee, however, went for the batsman more experienced at the international level, in Rohit.
The choice of back-up spinner, which has been this selection committee's weakest suit, continues to baffle. Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra, who have been taking turns in travelling as the back-up spinner without actually getting a decent run in the team, were both overlooked in favour of Chawla. All three spinners have been in reasonable form in the IPL, with Mishra leading the way. Chawla last played for India during the 2008 Asia Cup in Pakistan.
"I had a really good Ranji Trophy season after a good county stint at Sussex. So I was confident about my cricket but about this Twenty20 selection it was 50-50," Chawla told Cricinfo. "So this call is a big surprise. I knew I would come back in the Indian team but I was not very, very confident about making it to the Twenty20 squad."
That MS Dhoni is returning from an injury must have prompted the selectors to pick a reserve wicketkeeper, although they don't lose much by way of a batsman because Dinesh Karthik has proved to be a good batsman in the Twenty20 format.
The World Twenty20 starts on April 30, five days after the end of the IPL; India are grouped with South Africa and Afghanistan.
Squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Rohit Sharma