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KL Rahul to lead; Hardik Pandya, Umran Malik, Arshdeep Singh in squad for SA T20Is

Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah among the premier players rested for the series

Rohit Sharma, the designated all-format captain, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah are among the senior players to be rested for India's five-match T20I series at home against South Africa next month. KL Rahul has been named the captain of the 18-man side, which welcomes back Hardik Pandya, and has maiden call-ups for Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh.
Also missing from the squad are Deepak Chahar, Ravindra Jadeja and Suryakumar Yadav, who are all carrying injuries. Chahar, of Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, has a back injury, and played no part in the tournament. Jadeja, also of Super Kings, left the IPL with a bruised rib that he picked up earlier this month, while Mumbai Indians' Suryakumar also left the IPL earlier this month because of a left-forearm injury.
From the squad that took on Sri Lanka in their T20I series, also in India, in February this year, Mohammed Siraj and Sanju Samson have been left out. Kohli, who last played a T20I in February, against West Indies, had been rested for the Sri Lanka series as well. In fact, since stepping down as India's T20I captain after the 2021 T20 World Cup, Kohli has played only two T20Is.
As such, both Kohli and Rohit have been in patchy form at the IPL. Rohit, whose Mumbai Indians finished last on the points table, had a best score of 48 and tallied 268 runs overall from 14 innings, scoring at an average of 19.14 and a strike rate of 120.17. Kohli's run was arguably even poorer, but he has shown signs of returning to form of late, hitting 73 in 54 balls in Royal Challengers' last game, against Titans, which gave them an eight-wicket win and helped them stay in contention for the playoffs. Overall, Kohli has 309 runs from 14 innings, at an average of 23.76 and a strike rate of 117.93.
IPL form is likely to have played a part in the Hardik and Dinesh Karthik recalls too.
Karthik, one of the top finishers in the competition this year, last played a T20I - or a match in any format for India - in 2019, but forced the selectors to turn to him after hitting 287 runs at a strike rate of 191.33 in the IPL 2022 league stage. He has also been the best Indian batter in the death overs this season [min 30 balls faced], striking at 226.37.
Hardik, meanwhile, last turned out for India at the 2021 T20 World Cup, but played primarily as a batter, bowling only in a couple of games in the group stage. But he has bowled a lot more in IPL 2022 - 24.3 overs across eight innings - where he has led Titans to the top of the points table. With the bat, he had an excellent start to the tournament, but then tapered off before smashing 62 not out in 47 balls in their last match, against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
His international appearances have been sporadic of late, especially since back problems, which necessitated a surgery, cropped up in 2019. But Hardik has always remained a part of India's plans, which was evident when he was asked by the BCCI to take the fitness tests at NCA days before the IPL began. It is understood that the national selectors wanted to be sure that Hardik can consistently bowl at least a couple of overs in every match.
Arshdeep and Malik, meanwhile, have been among the most exciting young Indian quicks at the IPL. Malik has consistently bowled at speeds upwards of 150kph, and has 21 wickets to show for his efforts even while he has, at times, been expensive. Arshdeep has been the go-to bowler for Punjab Kings at the death, his yorkers reaping great rewards for him on most occasions. He hasn't always been a big wicket-taker, though, with ten strikes in 13 outings, but has an overall economy rate of 7.82 this season, and an impressive death-overs economy of 7.31, the best among all bowlers to have sent down at least 50 balls in that phase.
The players to retain their places in the squad were Ruturaj Gaikwad, Deepak Hooda and Shreyas Iyer in the batting line-up, wicketkeeper-batters Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan, allrounder Venkatesh Iyer, spinners Yuzvendra Chahal, the Purple-Cap holder at the IPL at this stage, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel and Ravi Bishnoi, and seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel and Avesh Khan.
But two of the names that had been discussed during IPL 2022 after making big impressions - batter Rahul Tripathi and quick bowler Mohsin Khan - didn't get a look-in.