India Name Second-String Squad for Zimbabwe Series

The selection committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the India squad for the tour of Zimbabwe at a meet in New Delhi on Monday. Ajinkya Rahane has been selected to lead a second-string India side to Zimbabwe for the series taking place in July. Regular ODI skipper MS Dhoni, Test skipper Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Shikhar Dhawan were some of the key players rested for the tour, mainly due to the fatigue of having played non-stop cricket since November last year.

India Name Second-String Squad for Zimbabwe Series

The national selectors have made a surprising move by handing the captaincy to Ajinkya Rahane. Also, not to forget the inclusion of Harbhajan Singh, who has been recalled to play in limited overs cricket after nearly four years. Harbhajan, who recently made his Test comeback (against Bangladesh in Fatullah), had last played a one-day international in June, 2011 against West Indies and now gets a chance once again. India’s Test match opener Murali Vijay, who has had a brilliant 18 months with the bat, got a deserved break into the ODI team. Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa, who have performed well for Kolkata Knight Riders and Karnataka for a significant amount of time have duly been awarded with a place in the 15-man squad and are set to wear blue after a long gap. Manoj Tiwary, the Bengal batsman, who has had a stop-start career so far, has been given a chance to resurrect his career as far as international cricket is concerned.

Axar Patel has been picked as the only left-arm spinner in the team and Karn Sharma, the leggie, has been retained in the squad as well. Among the medium-pacers, Dhawal Kulkarni, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma were retained, with Punjab’s rookie Sandeep Sharma joining them. Sandeep had impressive seasons in both domestic one-dayers and the Ranji Trophy. He took 17 wickets in six Vijay Hazare matches at an average of 15.52 and economy rate of 4.81 and performed quite well in the IPL as well.

India will play three one-day internationals and two T20 internationals starting from July 10. India recently suffered a shock 2-1 defeat against Bangladesh in the ODI series. India will be without team director Ravi Shastri. However, the support staff of Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar will accompany the squad.

Chief selector Sandeep Patil told reporters in New Delhi on Monday that the squad was chosen keeping the ICC World T20 2016 in mind. “Just like you, we were also not happy with India’s performance in Bangladesh. We have to move forward.”

Patil also said that Ajinkya Rahane was somebody they could see in the leadership role, and that this was a test ride for Rahane, the captain. “If five of us have decided to give responsibility to Mr Ajinkya Rahane, the five of us are confident of his ability. We want him to do well. We would also like to judge him at the same time. We are happy the way his career has shaped up. He is one of the most consistent batsmen we have. That’s why we want to see this side of him. We have given him this opportunity. We will back him in every way.”

This will be a tough challenge for Rahane considering that Dhoni himself has said that Rahane needs to make a few changes and adapt to the 50 over game better if he is to feature in India’s first XI. Although Zimbabwe isn’t the strongest side around in world cricket, this will be an acid test for him, as he needs to focus on his personal performance as well as lead this inexperienced team.