Rahane to lead second-string side in Zimbabwe
Ajinkya Rahane has been selected to lead a second-string India side to Zimbabwe for the proposed three ODIs and two T20Is. ODI captain MS Dhoni, Test captain Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan and Umesh Yadav were rested for the tour. Anurag Thakur, the BCCI secretary, also confirmed that the team director Ravi Shastri was not going on the Zimbabwe tour because of prior professional commitments, as reported on Sunday by ESPNcricinfo.
"Until the players themselves request for a rest, we don 't rest them," Sandeep Patil, the chairman of the selectors said. "We sent a full-strength side to Bangladesh, but this time the players communicated to us that they needed the rest."
One man neither in any of the squads nor on the list of the players rested was Ravindra Jadeja. Patil said the missing names not rested according to the press release were dropped. In his last 10 matches, starting with the World Cup, Jadeja took 10 wickets at 43.3 at an economy rate of 5.3, and scored 108 runs at an average of 18 and a strike rate of 85.03. Yadav, who was at the centre of Dhoni's criticism of out-and-out fast bowlers in Bangladesh, found a place in the India A team that will be playing two four-day games against Australia A in Chennai.
No specialist wicketkeeper was named in the 15-man squad, but there were three batsmen-wicketkeeper options in Robin Uthappa, Kedar Jadhav and Ambati Rayudu. Out of the three, only Uthappa is the regular wicketkeeper of his IPL side.
Harbhajan Singh, who made his Test comeback earlier this month, was picked in the limited-overs sides for the first time since he last played an ODI in 2011 and a T20 international in 2012. Axar Patel, who played the ODI series in Bangladesh, will be joined by legspinner Karn Sharma as the third spinner in the squad.
Harbhajan took eight wickets in nine Vijay Hazare matches, but was Mumbai Indians' second-highest wicket-taker in the 2015 IPL. Karn played only three Vijay Hazare matches, and his IPL stats - 10 wickets in 14 matches and an economy rate of 8.33 - were not the most impressive either. Amit Mishra, who was India's second-best bowler in the last World Twenty20, though, failed to find favour. Karn is 27 years old, Mishra is 32. It will be all the more disappointing for Mishra because Patil said the squad was picked with next year's World Twenty20 in mind. Mishra, though, did find a place in the A squad.
M Vijay, specialist opener in Tests, was expected to partner Rahane at the top of the order. Apart from the three batsmen-wicketkeepers, Manish Pandey and Manoj Tiwary were the two other batsmen in the 15-man squad. Pandey was the highest run-getter in Vijay Hazare Trophy, and Tiwary was No. 9 on the list. Jadhav played only one Vijay Hazare match, and had a middling IPL season with 189 runs in 12 innings at an average of 23.62 and strike rate of 135.
Among medium-pacers Dhawal Kulkarni, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma were retained, with Punjab's uncapped Sandeep Sharma joining them. Sandeep had impressive seasons in both domestic one-dayers and IPL. He took 17 wickets in six Vijay Hazare matches at an average of 15.52 and economy rate of 4.81. He was Kings XI Punjab's second-highest wicket-taker in the IPL.
The selectors also named Cheteshwar Pujara captain of the India A squad. It will be Rahul Dravid's first series as coach of the India A side.
ODI squad: Ajinkya Rahane (capt), M Vijay, Ambati Rayudu, Manoj Tiwary, Kedar Jadhav, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Harbhajan Singh, Axar Patel, Karn Sharma, Dhawal Kulkarni, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma.
India A squad: KL Rahul, Abhinav Mukund, Cheteshwar Pujara (capt), Karun Nair, Shreyas Iyer, Naman Ojha, Vijay Shankar, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Shardul Thakur, Varun Aaron, Abhimanyu Mithun, Umesh Yadav, Shreyas Gopal, B Aparajith