Rohit Sharma is fit again and will lead India in the home series against West Indies starting February 6. The series comprises three ODIs and three T20Is and will see the return of Kuldeep Yadav as well. The left-arm wristspinner has not played any kind of competitive cricket for the last six months, but India are in dire need of wicket-taking options in the middle overs and he has a record of being just that. On the batting front, Rajasthan's Deepak Hooda has received a maiden ODI call-up.
Among the various issues that came up during India's 3-0 loss to South Africa was the ineffectiveness of their spinners. R Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal and Jayant Yadav were only able to take a combined three wickets in 59 overs, prompting head coach Rahul Dravid to say that middle-overs (11-40) bowling was "an area in the game we have been behind a little bit.".
So now, it appears India are going back to a strategy that worked rather well for them between 2017 and 2019 when they deployed Kuldeep in tandem with Chahal and capitalised on the fact that not many batters were capable of picking wristspin out of the bowler's hand. Recent results - including the poor show at the T20 World Cup - have forced the selectors to look for more x-factor players, which works out well for the 21-year-old wrong'un specialist Ravi Bishnoi. The newly-minted Lucknow Super Giant spinner has broken into the India squad for the first time. He has 24 wickets from 23 matches in the IPL with an average of 25.25 and economy rate of 6.96.
Vice-captain KL Rahul will miss the first ODI but will be available for the rest of the series. Senior fast bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have been rested. Bhuvneshwar Kumar only finds a place in the T20I set-up. Washington Sundar, having recovered from Covid-19, takes his place as first-choice fingerspinner, displacing Ashwin. Avesh Khan, who had a stellar IPL season in 2021, features in both squads.
All those players are at Rohit's disposal once more now that he has recovered from a hamstring injury that he sustained just days before the Indian team's departure to South Africa in December. It was an untimely injury for the 34-year-old, who had been appointed full-time white-ball captain and is also the front-runner to succeed Virat Kohli as Test captain. The decision is likely to be taken by the selectors in coordination with the BCCI top brass ahead of the two-match series against Sri Lanka in March.
It is understood that Hardik Pandya, who last played for India during the T20 World Cup, is not yet fit enough to play a full role as seam-bowling allrounder. He has said as much to the selectors and is hoping to use the upcoming IPL to see whether his body can handle those workloads again. Hardik was appointed captain of the Ahmedabad IPL franchise which bought him for INR 15 crore (USD 2.02 million approx.)
Hooda appears to be the only left-field pick in either squad. While he scored a century in the Vijay Hazare Trophy pre-quarter-finals against Karnataka last month, his overall record in that tournament was a bit underwhelming: 198 runs at an average of 33 while batting in the middle order. He had a better time of it in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s in November, scoring 294 runs in six games at a strike rate of 168. The 26-year-old joined Rajasthan in July 2021 after a troubled few months with Baroda where he was removed from the squad on grounds of indiscipline.
Recently the BCCI revised the venues for the West Indies series scheduling the ODI leg in Ahmedabad on February 6, 9 and 11 with the T20s to be played in Kolkata on February 16, 18 and 20.