With one eye on the upcoming ICC World Twenty20 in March, the Indian selection committee, headed by Sandeep Patil, announced the squads for the 2016 tour of Australia. There will be five One Day Internationals and three Twenty20s, which will take place between the 12th and 31st January, and these matches will give the players a chance either to cement their place in the squad for the World Cup or make the selectors re-think their plans.
Some Surprises in India T20 and ODI Squads
Stalwarts Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra were named in the Indian squad for the Twenty20 matches. Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami too were back in the ODI and T20 squads. Yuvraj last made an appearance for India in the 2012 World T20 while this is Nehra’s first Indian assignment since the historic 2011 World Cup victory.
Following his exploits for Mumbai Indians in the IPL and Baroda in the Vijay Hazare trophy, Hardik Pandya was rewarded and made it to the T20I squad that also includes his IPL team-mate, Harbhajan Singh. The right-arm spinner, however, lost his spot in the ODI line-up. The selectors made wholesale changes and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Suresh Raina, Amit Mishra, Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny have all been left out from the ODI squad following inconsistent performances. Rookies Rishi Dhawan, Brainder Singh Sran and Manish Pandey have been included in the squad, while Gurkeerat retains his spot.
Sandeep Patil said the changes to the team were initiated due to the predictability of the team balance in India’s recent series. He said: “We felt Indian team in batting and bowling was looking very much predictable. So we wanted to have some variations, and that is why we have picked a player in our batting order and a player in the bowling department also.”
Raina was incapable to make an impact against South Africa last month, as he managed just 68 runs from five matches at an average of 13.60 and was rightfully dropped from the ODI side. His form in the Vijay Hazare Trophy inspired no confidence either. Bhuvneshwar’s series was just as forgettable; he claimed his seven wickets from five matches at an average of 50 with an economy rate of above seven. He looked the pale shadow of the bowler he was 12 months back. Both are in the squad for the T20 series, though.
When asked whether the selectors had lost confidence in Raina’s abilities, Patil stated that no player was written off. He said: “If he had lost confidence he wouldn’t have been in T20 team also. Selectors have no right to write any player off. We look at the performance, the fitness of the player and we look at the combination. If a player fits in the combination we pick him.”
Yuvraj, the player of the tournament during India’s World Cup win in 2011, was included following great performances in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, where he is currently amongst the highest run-scorers with 341 runs at an average of 85.25. “Yuvraj Singh will always remain special,” Patil said. “The selectors are very happy, and the captain is also very happy to have him back. We cannot promise any player whether he will be part of the next tour or the World Cup. We want every player to perform and every player has a chance to come back in the team.”
He said the selections of senior players like Yuvraj and Nehra was to give the selection committee a chance to evaluate them ahead of the World T20. “We have introduced and given many youngsters which we are very happy about. This game is not only of youngsters, this game also needs to have experience. And we are looking at the World Cup T20 championship in India where we will certainly need experienced players.”
Ashish Nehra was one of the best performers in the last IPL and picked up 22 wickets from 16 matches. Nehra has played just one competitive match since then, but Patil felt his experience would come in useful. He said, “Keeping in mind the World T20, this is a chance for a lot of players to use as a platform. Those who have not been selected, they were all discussed. We have extended the pool. Nehra is a consistent performer in the T20 format. He will be useful in the team. We will need experienced players in the World T20, and the Australia tour is perfect chance to give them a shot.”
Anurag Thakur, BCCI secretary, and Patil also confirmed that MS Dhoni would carry on as captain of both the ODI and T20I teams at least until the 2016 World T20, quashing rumours circulating about his future.
“There were a lot of stories going around. Selectors wanted to send a very clear cut message to all, to the media and the players—and I am not talking about India team players—but general players, that who is going to be our leader. There is only three months time. I am happy that all selectors were of the same opinion that Dhoni should be the captain till the T20 World Cup. What happens after that we will let you know after the T20 World Cup.”
T20I squad: MS Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Harbhajan Singh, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra
ODI squad: MS Dhoni (captain), R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Gurkeerat Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Brainder Sran