New Delhi: Middle order batsman Ajinkya Rahane has been named captain of the 15-member Indian cricket team that will tour Zimbabwe in July as Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli, among other seniors, were rested.
Batsmen Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Rohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav were also rested by the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) All-India Senior Selection Committee which met here. India will play three One-Day Internationals (ODI) and two Twenty20 Internationals from July 10 to 19 in Harare.
“We are happy with the way Rahane’s career is shaping up. He has been the most consistent batsman for India and we want to see his other aspects. So we have given him this opportunity and will keep backing him,” said chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil.
“We have decided to rest a few players who need urgent rest. Until players themselves request for a rest, we don’t rest them. We sent a full-strength side to Bangladesh but this time the players communicated that they needed rest.”
Meanwhile, another middle order bat, Cheteshwar Pujara, has been named skipper of the India A squad for the two four-day games against Australia A. Both games will be played in Chennai — from July 22 to 25 and from July 29 to August 1.
This will be the first time the legendary Rahul Dravid will be in-charge of the A team since he was appointed India Under-19 and India A coach earlier this month.
Significantly, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja’s name does not figure in the squad – impliedly he has been dropped. The southpaw’s performance has dipped of late.
Despite being “rested” from the India squad, pace bowler Yadav was still named in the India A side.
No specialist wicketkeeper has been named in the India squad but Robin Uthappa, Kedar Jadhav and Ambati Rayudu, all of whom have been selected, have kept wickets in the past.
Meanwhile, veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh made a comeback to the ODI squad after four years. He last played an ODI in June 2011 against the West Indies while he was last picked for T20Is in September 2012 against Australia. He will be accompanied by left-arm tweaker Axar Patel and leggie Karn Sharma.
“We cannot say on long term basis but looking at Harbhajan’s performance in the last series, we feel that he deserves a chance on this tour,” Patil said.
Murali Vijay, who is a regular opener in Tests, is likely to partner Rahane at the top of the order as Manish Pandey and Manoj Tiwary are the other batsmen named in the side. Among pacers, Dhawal Kulkarni, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma were retained with Punjab’s uncapped Sandeep Sharma joining them.
Team director Ravi Shastri will not travel to Zimbabwe due to “prior engagements”.
“It is a young side we selected keeping in mind the future. The boys have put in good performances to get selected. This team has been selected keeping in mind the road map for the World Twenty20 which will be held in India early next year,” said Patil.
“We have to move forward for which we selected this side. Our job is to select the best possible team which we have done. The playing XI has to be chosen by the team director, captain and team management; the selectors have no role in that.”
The teams are:
India squad: Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Murali Vijay, Ambati Rayudu, Manoj Tiwary, Kedar Jadhav, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Harbhajan Singh, Axar Patel, Karn Sharma, Dhawal Kulkarni, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma.
India A squad: Cheteshwar Pujara (captain), Lokesh Rahul, Abhinav Mukund, Karun Nair, Shreyas Iyer, Naman Ojha, Vijay Shankar, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Shardul Thakur, Varun Aaron, Abhimanyu Mithun, Umesh Yadav, Shreyas Gopal, Baba Aparajith. (AGencies)