Yuvraj Singh’s One-Day International comeback was put on hold after the 35-year-old was left out of the Indian team for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka starting on August 20.
on Sunday (August 13), the MSK Prasad-led selection panel named a 15-man squad for five ODIs and a one-off Twenty20 International, resting several first-choice players and leaving out Yuvraj, 35, and Dinesh Karthik, who had been called up for the Champions Trophy as replacement for Manish Pandey.
R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, the two frontline spinners, have been given a break with a view to managing their workload, as have been Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, the new-ball bowlers who have also been in the thick of action recently. Returning to the squad are the fit-again Karnataka duo of Pandey and KL Rahul, who both missed the Champions Trophy through injury. Also back are Axar Patel, the left-arm spinner, and Yuzvendra Chahal, the legspinner. Shardul Thakur, the right-arm paceman from Mumbai, is the only uncapped player.
The team was decided after a meeting at the Indian team’s hotel in Pallekele on Sunday night following the second day’s play of the final Test. Apart from Prasad, physically present during the interactions were skipper Virat Kohli and Amitabh Choudhary, the acting secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India in his capacity as the convenor. Sarandeep Singh and Debang Gandhi, the other two members of the selection panel, joined in online from India and South Africa respectively.
Yuvraj had been brought into the ODI set-up after three and a half years on the sidelines in January this year with an eye on the Champions Trophy, and responded immediately with a career-best 150 against England in Cuttack. He has been patchy since then, though his overall comeback numbers are fairly impressive – 372 runs in 10 innings at 41.33. However, beyond that 150, he has made just one score in excess of 50, has hardly bowled and has moved ponderously on the field, putting his ODI future – if not his international future itself – in serious doubt.
The team has been picked with an eye on the 2019 World Cup, with perhaps the only surprise being the omission of Rishabh Pant, the 19-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman from Delhi. With Mahendra Singh Dhoni on the wrong side of 35, it was expected that the selectors would give Pant as many games as possible in the event that Dhoni for some reason isn’t available for the World Cup. Instead, Rahul and Kedar Jadhav will offer back-up wicketkeeping options on this tour.
Jasprit Bumrah expectedly returns to the squad after having been rested for the five-match series in the Caribbean. Rohit Sharma, who was also rested for that same tour, is back too and has been officially named the vice-captain for the first time.
The tour selection panel will have a tricky call to make for the two opening slots, with both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit showing excellent form in the Champions Trophy in England in June, and Ajinkya Rahane making the most of his inclusion in the XI in the West Indies in Rohit’s absence with a man of the series-winning performance. Rahul has also been in great touch during this tour of Sri Lanka, so the think-tank won’t have an easy task ahead of them.
The inclusion of two wrist spinners in Kuldeep Yadav and Chahal suggests that the selectors are looking at wicket-taking options in the middle-overs in the hope that wrist spinners will have a greater impact than finger spinners.
The ODI series starts in Dambulla on August 20 before moving to Pallekele for two games and then to Colombo for the last two matches. After the ODI series ends at the R Premadasa Stadium on September 3, the teams will play the solitary T20I at the same venue on September 6 to round off India’s first ever full tour of Sri Lanka.
Squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma (vice-capt), KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur.