Sehwag and Zaheer return, Tendulkar skips SL tour

Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan have returned to the Indian team for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka; both were rested for the Asia Cup in March. Sachin Tendulkar, who played in the CB series in 2011-12 and the Asia Cup, will be skipping the tour that includes five ODIs and one T20 game.

"It is a long season ahead and I think we will come back to winning ways. Sachin wants to extend his career," the BCCI's chairman of selectors Kris Srikkanth told reporters. "He is spacing it out very well."

Ravindra Jadeja, the allrounder, has been dropped for the tour after poor returns in the CB series in Australia. He had a mixed IPL, averaging 15.91 with the bat in 19 matches and taking 12 wickets at 22.75. Pragyan Ojha, the left-arm spinner, who wasn't picked for the Asia Cup has made it to the 15-man squad. Ojha picked up nine wickets in nine IPL games, at 24.44. There was no place for seamer Praveen Kumar either; Praveen collected nine wickets in 16 games at 48.22 in the IPL.

Ajinkya Rahane, who last played for India in December 2011, has been named in the squad, following a good IPL in which he finished as the fourth-highest run-getter. He made 560 runs at an average of 40 and also scored a couple of half-centuries in the limited-overs leg of the India A tour of the West Indies last month.

Fast bowler Umesh Yadav, who was rested for the Asia Cup, returned to the squad. Batsman Manoj Tiwary and legspinner Rahul Sharma were retained but the Pathan brothers, Yusuf and Irfan, who played the Asia Cup were left out.

Sehwag missed the Asia Cup due to back spasms and Zaheer, following a full tour of Australia, was also advised rest for that tournament in Bangladesh. Virat Kohli will remain vice-captain for the upcoming tour. "The idea is continuity," Srikkanth said. "Virat got brilliant hundreds after becoming vice-captain which shows that he likes responsibility."

Among the seamers, Ashok Dinda and Vinay Kumar will support Zaheer and they'll be part of a bowling line-up that includes three specialist spinners, Rahul, R Ashwin and Ojha. Harbhajan Singh, who recently signed a deal with Essex for the second half of the county season, was not selected.

The lack of an allrounder is the major surprise in the 15-man India squad for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka. It has been quite some time since there has been an India squad without at least one of Ravindra Jadeja and the Pathan brothers, all three of whom have been the chief contenders for the allrounder's position at No. 7. Jadeja's debut game in February 2009, against Sri Lanka, had also proved to be Irfan's last for close to three years, before he made a comeback in December 2011 against West Indies. The comeback has lasted eight games spread over three series. A disappointing Jadeja was surprisingly persisted with throughout the CB series in Australia earlier this year, while Irfan was restricted to four games. Jadeja's run has finally come to a halt now, but so has Irfan's. Yusuf's return has lasted all of one Asia Cup game, but his terrible IPL season seems to have gone against him.

No allrounder in the squad means it is increasingly unclear as to whether anyone is ahead in the latest round in the fight for the allrounder's slot. It seems that the fight itself has been called off for the moment, which is startling for a side that has often lacked balance due to the absence of a genuine allrounder. With four specialist fast bowlers picked, it would appear as though there was at least a case for picking Irfan ahead of Vinay Kumar.

The emphasis is on specialists for the series, with three spinners chosen. But that seems a luxury, given Dhoni's usual reliance on his part-time options such as Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma. Unless India play five specialist bowlers, something Dhoni is not a fan of, the bowling resources will be under-utilised.

Again, Sachin Tendulkar's pick-and-choose policy does not help the long-term balance of the squad, but when the chairman of selectors says that "Sachin is spacing it out very well", there is not much left to be said.
Abhishek Purohit