India have picked seamer Mohammed Shami for the World T20 and Asia Cup. Shami came back from Australia with a hamstring injury, and has not played for India since the 2015 World Cup. Virat Kohli, who has been rested for the three T20Is against Sri Lanka, also came back duly, replacing Manish Pandey in the 15-man squad. Shami took Bhuvneshwar Kumar's place.
The selection of Shami was a calculated risk. He had not proved his match fitness at the time of the announcement, on February 5. India's first match in the World T20 is on March 15, against New Zealand. The advantage with Shami is that from now we have 30 days before we start the World T20," chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil said. "Also we have the Asia Cup. So we have good time for making a call on Shami. He has been one of our best bowlers. He has recovered, he has started bowling. That's what I can say at the moment."
Apart from the XI that beat Australia 3-0 in the T20I series in Australia, India selected Ajinkya Rahane, Shami, Harbhajan Singh and left-arm spinner Pawan Negi. The uncapped Negi is the only left-field selection in the squad. He used to play for Chennai Super Kings, and represents Delhi in domestic cricket. He bowls quick left-arm spin, and is a big hitter down the order.
In a press conference in Australia, Dhoni had said the four players outside the XI should be able to fit in more than one slot should a need arise. Negi can do that: on a turning pitch he can play the role Hardik Pandya did, and he can also replace Ravindra Jadeja as the specialist spinner.
Rahane, who used to open for Rajasthan Royals, can slot in at the top of order should Shikhar Dhawan, who has not scored an international half-century and strikes at 120 per 100 balls in all T20 cricket, fail. Rahane can also play a role in the middle order if required.
Dhoni had also said that Harbhajan would play if the opposition has many left-hand batsmen. It is Harbhajan's experience and hitting ability down the order that come in handy, according to Dhoni.
The big change from India's last WorldT20 squad was the absence of legspinner Amit Mishra, who was India's second-highest wicket-taker. While he has come back into the Test team since then, he has not played a Twenty20 for India.