Tamil Nadu off-spinner R. Ashwin earned his maiden international call-up when the national selectors named him in the XV for the first two ODIs against South Africa on Tuesday. Yusuf Pathan was recalled for the matches to be played in Jaipur on Sunday and in Gwalior on February 24.
Dinesh Karthik too has been called back with Gautam Gambhir being ruled out of the series because of a groin injury, according to a media release from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). As reported earlier, Harbhajan Singh has opted out of the first two matches due to his sister's wedding. Apart from Gambhir and Harbhajan, five more — Yuvraj Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth and Ashok Dinda — were missing from the squad of XVI, which played the tri-series in Bangladesh in January.
Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma are injured, while Dinda has been overlooked because of indifferent form. Ravindra Jadeja got the sole left-arm spinner's spot ahead of Ojha. Sachin Tendulkar, who opted out of the ODIs in Bangladesh, is back as is Mumbai teammate Abhishek Nayar, who played the last of his three ODIs in the Champions Trophy, against the West Indies last September.
With the selectors picking four medium-pacers, Praveen Kumar beat Sreesanth to a berth. There was no place for Ishant Sharma either. A BCCI official said the two, who are in the squad for the ongoing Test against South Africa, are being spared for Tests.
There are three specialist spinners in the squad in the form of Ashwin, Ojha and Amit Mishra with Pathan senior, also back after a Champions Trophy tie against Pakistan, providing the other spin option.