India pick Faiz Fazal for Zimbabwe tour
Vidarbha batsman Faiz Fazal is one of five uncapped players in India's weakened ODI and T20I squads for the tour of Zimbabwe in June. The others are spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Jayant Yadav, and batsmen Karun Nair and Mandeep Singh. KL Rahul is uncapped in the limited-overs formats.
The selectors met on Sunday in Mumbai and chose the same 16-man squad for both ODIs and T20Is.
As many as 17 players who were in the squads for India's previous limited-overs assignments - the tour of Australia and the World T20 - were not picked. They were: R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Gurkeerat Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Harbhajan Singh, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Hardik Pandya, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh. Rahul is the only player in the limited-overs squad to be picked for the Test tour of West Indies in July-August.
The captain Dhoni, with 275 ODIs and 68 T20Is, has more experience than the other 15 players combined - 83 ODIs and 28 T20Is. "Dhoni has retired from the longer format and we selectors felt that this is the best opportunity for youngsters to have someone like Dhoni, who has ample experience," Sandeep Patil, the chairman of selectors, said. "Dhoni himself was very keen to tour with the youngsters so I think it is a very good sign and a good help for the youngsters, who are going to be part of the Zimbabwe tour.
"No one has been rested. No one wrote to BCCI or called us (to say) they were not available or they should be rested. It was the decision of the selection committee to pick a young side for Zimbabwe and another side for West Indies."
Patil, however, said Nehra and Vijay had fitness concerns, while Kohli required "complete rest" after the IPL. "Ashish Nehra is ruled out because he is undergoing surgery for his hamstring injury, M Vijay was not fit for the Zimbabwe tour with a niggle. The report which we have got from Patrick Farhat says that he [Kohli] needs rest after IPL for his [hand] injury."
Fazal, 30, is the only player in the squad without a current IPL contract - he was part of Rajasthan Royals until 2011 - and is presently playing league cricket in England. His selection came as a result of performances in Indian domestic cricket. Fazal made 127 in Rest of India's chase of 480 to win the 2015-16 Irani Cup against Mumbai, and a century and a fifty in India A's victory in the Deodhar Trophy. In the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2015-16, Fazal made 312 runs at an average of 52 in seven innings, and in the 20-over Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy he scored 205 runs at a strike rate of 102 in nine innings.
Rahul had a breakthrough IPL season in Royal Challengers Bangalore's run to the playoffs with 386 runs, including four half-centuries, in 12 matches at an average of 55.14. Rahul's Karnataka team-mate Karun Nair also had a productive IPL, in which he was the second-highest run-getter for Delhi Daredevils with 357 runs at 35.70, including an unbeaten 83 in a last-ball win against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Earlier, Nair had made 500 runs in seven matches in the Ranji season.
Kedar Jadhav, the back-up wicketkeeper in the squad, had helped India A win the Deodhar Trophy with an unbeaten 39-ball 48 in January. He had also been part of India's depleted squad to Zimbabwe in 2015. Jadhav set up India's 3-0 sweep with his maiden century, but hasn't played an ODI since.
Mandeep was the leading run-getter in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy, with 394 runs in seven matches at an average and strike rate of 65.66 and 88.73. Mandeep had sustained an injury minutes before Royal Challengers' match against Gujarat Lions in April, but he had recovered since.
Mandeep's IPL team-mate Chahal was also picked. The legspinner is currently the leading wicket-taker in IPL 2016, with 19 wickets in 11 games at an average and economy rate of 17.05 and 7.87. Chahal was the side's top wicket-taker in 2015 as well with 23 wickets in 15 games.
"This year we wanted variation in our bowling department, that is why Yuzvendra Chahal found a place," Patil said. "IPL as a tournament is important, it is a BCCI tournament and we know that all international players participate in the IPL, which makes it very competitive cricket. So it is important for the selectors to look into the performances of the IPL."
Jayant, the third specialist spinner in the squad after Axar Patel and Chahal, took eight wickets in Rest of India's historic win in the Irani Cup in March. The offspinner then made sporadic appearances for Daredevils in IPL. He was the team's second best bowler in terms of economy rate - giving away 7.35 runs an over in five matches.
India are scheduled to play three ODIs and three T20Is in Harare between June 11 and 22.
ODI and T20 squad MS Dhoni (capt & wk), KL Rahul, Faiz Fazal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Ambati Rayudu, Rishi Dhawan, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jasprit Bumrah, Barinder Sran, Mandeep Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Jaydev Unadkat, Yuzvendra Chahal