India batsman Yuvraj Singh has been named in India's T20 squad for the home series against New Zealand and the ICC World Twenty20 next month in Sri Lanka, marking a return to cricket after battling with cancer. VVS Laxman, Ishant Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Piyush Chawla and Ajinkya Rahane have been included for the home Tests against New Zealand later this month. Rohit Sharma has been left out of the Test squad after a lean period with the bat.
Yuvraj, who last played for India during the home Tests against West Indies, was passed fit when the selection committee met in Mumbai to pick the respective squads. During his recovery from cancer, Yuvraj said last month that Twenty20 would be ideal format to mark his return to competitive cricket. However, he was picked despite lacking in match practice.
The Twenty20 squad had a few surprises, most notably the recall of the legspinner Chawla (in both squads), offspinner Harbhajan Singh and the seamer L Balaji. Chawla last played for India during the 2011 World Cup, and his previous Test goes back a further three years. Balaji, who suffered career-threatening injuries through the previous decade, last played for India in 2009. What may have boosted his selection was a successful IPL 2012, during which he played a key role in Kolkata Knight Riders' title win.
Harbhajan was dropped after failing to make an impression on the tours of West Indies and England last year. His form in domestic cricket wasn't encouraging either. He was ignored for the Tests, but the T20s will give him a chance to stage a comeback in all three formats. He also lends experience to India's spin attack.
Laxman's future as a Test batsman was in doubt after a poor tour of Australia, where he only managed 155 runs in eight innings. Rohit did not get a chance in any of those games, but Rahul Dravid's retirement opened the door not just for him but for a few other young batsmen hoping to break into the Test team. However, Rohit failed to make a mark in the recently concluded limited-overs series in Sri Lanka, possibly jeopardising his Test selection. Pujara's batting for India A in the West Indies made it hard for the selectors to ignore him. He was already earmarked as a Test middle-order prospect.
Rahane, who sparkled during the IPL, was left out of the Twenty20 squad but included for the Tests as a reserve opener. Ishant too returns from a layoff, after skipping the IPL to recover from an ankle surgery. Suresh Raina is back in India's Test plans, after being ignored for the Australia tour.
Kris Srikkanth, in his last selection meeting as chairman of selectors, said: "We have picked the best possible Test team. We looked at the conditions (in Sri Lanka) for the World T20. We feel that we have picked a team that will win us the World Cup. We are very happy Yuvi (Yuvraj) has been declared fit. In 2011 World Cup, he was the Man of the Series. He is a crucial factor from India's point of view."
This selection marks the end of a long and traumatic period for Yuvraj. His issues began with breathing difficulties, nausea and bouts of vomiting blood during India's successful run through the 2011 World Cup, which he ended as the player of the tournament. Six months later he was diagnosed with a rare for of cancer - mediastinal seminoma - and subsequently underwent chemotherapy in the US. He returned to India in April and began training at the NCA in Bangalore in June.
India play two Tests and two Twenty20s against New Zealand before heading to Sri Lanka for the World Twenty20.