Virat Kohli, who was rested for the upcoming One-Day International series against Sri Lanka, has been kept out of the Twenty20 International leg of the series too, and the Indian selectors have named a squad with a number of fresh faces.
Washington Sundar, the Tamil Nadu offspinning allrounder, Basil Thampi, the Kerala paceman, and Deepak Hooda, the Baroda batsman, were all rewarded for their performances, especially in the Indian Premier League, when the squad of 15 was named on Monday (December 4) in New Delhi.
While the three of them have never been in an Indian squad before, Jaydev Unadkat, the vastly improved left-arm pacer from Saurashtra, has earned a recall after last turning out for India in his only T20I – apart from one Test and seven ODIs – in June 2016.
Squad: Rohit Sharma (capt), KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Basil Thampi, Jaydev Unadkat.
MSK Prasad, the chairman of the selection committee, said the new faces were included based on their performances in domestic cricket and the IPL. “With regard to the youngsters who have been included, someone like Basil Thampi, Siraj, Hooda, Shreyas Iyer – all these players have been doing really well in domestic cricket,” said Prasad. “After their wonderful performances in domestic cricket, we have given them opportunities in India A tours, both to South Africa and when New Zealand came. Considering all those performances and also taking into account performances in the IPL, we have considered these names.”
In Kohli’s absence, Rohit Sharma, who was named captain of the ODI team earlier, will lead the team in the three-match series, starting on December 20 in Cuttack, as well. Along with Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan have also been given a breather, suggesting that Rohit and KL Rahul would be the first-choice opening pair. The trio have been rested keeping in mind the South Africa tour that the Indian Test squad are set to leave for on December 27, three days after the conclusion of the T20I series.
Also in the squad are Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey and Dinesh Karthik among the batsmen along with MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya, while Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are the lead spinners and Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj are the other pace options.
There had been some speculation about a possible comeback for Yuvraj Singh, who had been training at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, and was understood to have passed the yo-yo fitness test after having earlier failed it. Prasad continued to reiterate that the doors were not closed on Yuvraj, though he did say that when the allrounder wasn’t picked after the Champions Trophy 2017, his fitness had been a problem. “There was also a fitness issue with Yuvraj earlier. I’m very happy he has cleared the fitness test, but since he has not played cricket for quite some time, let him have some good match-time, and we’ll definitely see him in the times to come,” held Prasad.
In India’s last few limited-overs matches, there had also been public debate about Dhoni’s spot, particularly in the T20I sides, but when asked if there was any discussion about his name, Amitabh Choudhary, the BCCI secretary, said a firm, “None whatsoever.”
Among the new faces, Washington came into the limelight during the IPL earlier this year, putting in a good display for Rising Pune Supergiant and then continuing the good work in the Duleep Trophy 2017-18 and the Ranji Trophy 2017-18. Thampi impressed everyone with his pace and control in the IPL for Gujarat Lions, while Hooda has been one of the leading lights for Baroda and India A in recent times. Unadkat was also successful during the IPL, finishing second on the wicket-takers’ list behind Bhuvneshwar with 24 wickets from 12 matches for Pune and has been impressive with ball and bat for Saurashtra in the ongoing Ranji Trophy.
Siddharth Kaul, who made it to the ODI side, was not in the T20I squad and Prasad said it was a horses for courses policy. “Right now we felt that Kaul is more suited for the one-day format and Basil and Siraj are more suited to the T20 format,” he said.
Iyer and Siraj, newcomers too, made their international debuts in the T20I series against New Zealand recently, where India sealed a nervy 2-1 win.