NEW DELHI: The first BCCI meeting to pick an Indian cricket team in the post-MS Dhoni captaincy era was an eventful one, to say the least, and much before the five selectors sat down to pick the limited-overs squad for the upcoming ODI and T20I series with England.
An email from the BCCI on Thursday had confirmed the timing of the meeting inside the corridors of the board headquarters at the Wankhede Stadium as 12:30pm, but it did not underway until after 3pm owing to confusion within the BCCI over protocol following the Supreme Court’s order from earlier this week which ruled ineligible the BCCI’s office-bearers from holding their posts.
When much of the confusion settled and chairman of selectors MSK Prasad addressed the media gathered at 4:20pm following reiteration on behalf of the Justice Lodha Committee, it was announced that Yuvraj Singh had been recalled to India’s ODI squad and that the uncapped Delhi and India Under-19 wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, who scored 972 runs in the ongoing Ranjji Trophy at a strike-rate of 107.28, with four hundreds, was in the T20I squad. Ajinkya Rahanealso returned from a fractured finger, but there was no mention of Rohit Sharma, who had not played cricket since hurting a leg in October durig the New Zealand series.
Two days after the board announced that MS Dhoni, India’s most successful captain in all formats, had relinquished the captaincy, Virat Kohli was named the new limited-overs leader. Kohli, who has been India’s Test captain since Dhoni retired in December 2014, has previously led in 17 ODIs between July 2013 and November 2014, whenever Dhoni was rested. Of these, India won 14 and lost three. Kohli has not captained in a T20I yet.
With very few viable wicketkeeper-batsman options on the domestic front, the selectors have stuck with Dhoni behind the stumps, and it is likely that he bats at No 4, as he has done in recent ODIs. Wriddhiman Saha is India’s preferred wicketkeeper in Tests but has not wholly convinced as a limited-overs option; Parthiv Patel did well when recalled as the injured Saha’s replacement during the recent Test series, both as an opener and wicketkeeper, but did not find favour in the shorter formats.
Yuvraj, 35, last played an ODI in December 2013. He was part of India’s T20I squad last year, and returns to the ODI squad after scoring 672 runs in five Ranji Trophy games for Punjab this season.
This is the first call-up for Pant, who’s potential was made known to a global audience in early 2016 when he led India Under-19s into the semi-finals of the junior World Cup in Bangladesh with 111 off 96 balls against Namibia, having earlier smashed the quickest fifty in the tournament’s history during the league stage. He was subsequently picked up by IPL franchise Delhi Daredevils for Rs 1.9 crore from a base price of 10 lakh.
During his breakthrough Ranji season, the 19-year-old clubbed his way up the run charts and into the record books, hitting the fastest hundred by an Indian batsman in first-class cricket. The milestone came against Jharkhand in Trivandrum, when in the second innings – he made 117 off 106 in the first – Pant needed just 48 balls to get another hundred. Earlier in the competition, he scored 308 off 326 balls against Maharashtra to help Delhi secure a draw after the opposition racked up 635/2 declared. In three List A matches, however, Pant has a best of 24 and in T20 cricket he averages 24.75, with one half-century.
India’s injury roster includes spin-bowling allrounders Axar Patel (thumb) and Jayant Yadav (hamstring) and fast bowlers Mohammed Shami (knee) and Dhawal Kulkarni (knee). This perhaps forced the selectors to not rest R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, after bowling 307.1 and 290.1 overs respectively during India’s 4-0 win over England. Haryana legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal has been recalled too, having played all three ODIs and T20Is on the tour of Zimbabwe under Dhoni last summer. Chahal’s 33 wickets in seven matches helped Haryana make the Ranji quarter-finals this season.
From India’s previous ODI squad, Amit Mishra, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah have been retained. Hardik Pandya returns after recovering from injury sustained while part of the Test team in November. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is back for both ODIs and T20Is, while Ashish Nehra is back in the latter having not played since the ICC World Twenty20 last year.
Shikhar Dhawan also returns to the ODI squad. He was not picked for the New Zealand series as he was unavailable, and since recovering has featured in three Ranji matches for Delhi, with scores of 38, 49, 6, 16 and 16.
Suresh Raina is in the T20I squad, having last played for India in March. Rahane was dropped from the T20I squad.
The ODIs will be played in Pune (January 15), Cuttack (January 19) and Kolkata (January 22). The T20Is will be held in Kanpur (January 26), Nagpur (January 29) and Bangalore (February 1). The Kanpur T20I is scheduled to start at 4:30pm IST owing to the possibility of fog in north India, and the other two games at the customary 7pm.
India are ranked third in the ICC ODI Championship and England fifth. In T20Is, India are second and England sixth. England have only won one bilateral ODI series on Indian soil, which was back in 1984. Since then, two series have been drawn while India have won four in a row, dating back to 2006. England won a one-off T20I in 2011-12 and the last series, in 2012-13, was shared 1-1. Kohli’s team is slated to arrive in Pune on January 13, and expected to attend the annual MAK Pataudi lecture, to be delivered by Farokh Engineer, on the same day.