Virat Kohli officially took over the leadership of Indian cricket on Friday after the Test skipper was handed the responsibility of leading the one-day and T20 teams against England.
Kohli’s elevation was on expected lines following Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to step down as limited-over captain on Wednesday. Dhoni was still the preferred choice of selectors to keep wickets in both teams.
However, the biggest gainer in Friday’s selection was Yuvraj Singh, who will don India colours after nearly a year. Yuvraj --- who last played a T20 International in the World T20 in March last year and his last ODI was in December 2013 --- was rewarded for his consistent performance in the Ranji Trophy where he scored 672 runs in five matches for Punjab, which included a double century and a ton.
Selection committee chief MSK Prasad said Yuvraj’s domestic performance paved the way for his comeback. “We should appreciate the way Yuvraj has played in domestic cricket,” Prasad said after the selection meeting where they picked four squads --- ODIs, T20Is and two warm-up matches.
“All these days we thought he hadn’t played a long innings. But he has scored a double hundred. He scored 180 (177) on a (seaming) Lahli wicket.”
Although Kohli has been handed over the leadership baton, Dhoni was named captain of the India ‘A’ team for the first warm-up match against England to be played at the Brabourne Stadium on January 10.
“I think, he is the best guy to look after the youngsters. We know what Mahi (Dhoni) is all about. It’s not just about whether he has stepped down or anything. He is a captain by nature who leads from the front. If you notice, he had also led a young team in Zimbabwe,” said Prasad.
The only new face in the two India teams is Delhi dasher Rishabh Pant. The India U-19 wicketkeeper-batsman was picked in the T20 squad after a prolific Ranji season, where he scored 972 runs in 12 innings, including a triple-century against Maharashtra at the Wankhede Stadium.
Pant’s attacking batting put him on the selectors’ radar. However, it is learnt that Pant is not being groomed for Dhoni’s role. In fact, the selectors have Jharkhand’s India U-19 World Cup skipper Ishan Kishan on mind and that is why he has been picked in the squad for the second warm-up match against England at the Brabourne Stadium on January 12.
Pant could be tried as opener in one of the matches after the selectors did not include Shikhar Dhawan, who was included in the ODI squad but dropped from the T20 team.
Prasad explained the reason for promoting youngsters in the T20 squad. “That is why we backed Rishabh as there are not many T20 games coming up. We retained Mandeep Singh because he didn’t get much chance earlier,” said Prasad.
Meanwhile, it was a wakeup call for Ajinkya Rahane and comeback man Suresh Raina. Rahane was not included in the T20 team after scores of seven and an unbeaten four in the two T20 games against the West Indies. Raina kept his T20 spot but was dropped from the ODI squad. The southpaw was part of the ODI team for the New Zealand series but was later replaced due to fitness issues. On Raina’s exclusion from ODI team, Prasad said, “We looked at the best possible combination and accordingly we have selected the teams.”
Ashish Nehra too will make a comeback into the India T20 team after missing out on the Zimbabwe and West Indies series due to injury.
ODI squad: KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (capt), MS Dhoni, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav.
T20I squad: KL Rahul, Mandeep Singh, Virat Kohli (capt), MS Dhoni (wk), Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Manish Pandey, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra