Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun
Shardul Thakur and Dinesh Karthik have made their way back into the ODI squad for the three matches against New Zealand starting October 22 in Mumbai. Shikhar Dhawan, who had sought leave for the Australia ODIs to be with his ill wife, also returned to the 15-man squad.
KL Rahul, who was in the squad for the ODIs against Australia, was left out. India's frontline spinners in Tests - R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja - were also not part of the squad which meant the spin trio of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel was retained. Jadeja had earlier been named a replacement for Axar, who had sprained his left ankle, for the first three ODIs against Australia but could not find a place in the XI given the performances of Kuldeep and Chahal, before Axar returned for the last two ODIs.
In the pace department, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami were left out from the squad after both of them played only the fourth ODI against Australia in Bengaluru. While Umesh picked four wickets for 71, Shami went wicketless and conceded at more than six runs per over as Australia amassed 334 runs. Their omission means Thakur joins Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar among the quicks.
Karthik's selection, according to a BCCI official, was a reward for his consistent performances lately. In his most recent international games - a T20I and an ODI against West Indies in July - he scored 48 and 50* respectively. Karthik also finished with the second-highest aggregate in the Duleep Trophy behind Priyank Panchal, with 291 runs at an average of 72.75, including two centuries. Karthik is currently a part of the Tamil Nadu side that is playing Tripura in the Ranji Trophy.
With Rishabh Pant not among the runs recently - he had an underwhelming series with the India A team in South Africa and didn't exactly set the stage ablaze in the Duleep Trophy - Karthik has jumped ahead of him in the queue. In fact, Karthik, who plays as a specialist middle-order batsman for India in limited-overs cricket, was also preferred to Rahul, who didn't get a game against Australia after a poor tour of Sri Lanka.
"Karthik's inclusion is a reward for the runs he has been scoring," the official told ESPNcricinfo. "There is no particular reason [behind Rahul's omission] because Ajinkya [Rahane] has done well as an opener. He (Rahul) will play Board President's XI or the Ranji Trophy. What's the point in him just being in the squad and not playing? We will see how it goes [as far as his batting position is concerned]. Because, as of now, this is the best combination.
"We are trying to rotate everybody. We are open to different combinations and options. DK instead of Rahul in the middle order is also a part of the process."
The official also said Pant would be better equipped to succeed once he found some form with the bat. "When somebody comes into the team, if he comes with a lot of runs, he will come with better confidence and will have a better chance of doing well," he said.
Thakur's selection, too, appears to be a part of the selectors' rotation policy. After having been a part of the India squad on a few occasions, Thakur made his international debut during the five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka in August. While he picked up only one wicket from two games, he bowled well for the most part and didn't do much wrong. Thakur also picked up six wickets from the two four-day matches he played against New Zealand A and finished with two wickets in the 50-overs leg.
Meanwhile, an ODI call-up continues to elude Shreyas Iyer despite his impressive run of form. While he racked up scores of 140*, 90 and 37 in his most recent List A games against South Africa A and New Zealand A, he has also scored two fifties and a century in his last four first-class innings against the same opponents. With several middle-order contenders like Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and Karthik, Iyer might have to wait a little longer.
Squad Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur.