New Delhi: Veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh staged a comeback to the ODI squad after a gap of four years as a second-string team was on Monday named for next month’s tour of Zimbabwe with the selectors opting to rest most of the senior players.
Batsman Robin Uthappa also made a return to the ODI side, while paceman Sandeep Sharma and leg-spinner Karan Sharma were included in the team to be captained by Ajinkya Rahane.
The selection panel headed by Sandeep Patil decided to give a break to Dhoni, Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Rohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav while recalling veteran offspinner Harbhajan Singh and others. All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja was dropped.
Also making a comeback to the 15-member squad are Murali Vijay, Manoj Tiwary, Kedar Jadhav, Robin Uthappa, Karn Sharma. Uncapped Karnataka batsman Manish Pandey and paceman Sandeep Sharma were also included.
There is no specialist wicketkeeper. Uthappa, Rayudu and also Jadhav have been part-time stumpers and one of them will take the big gloves in Dhoni’s absence.
“We had picked the best possible team that played at the World Cup and keeping the future series in mind, whether it is Sri Lanka, or South Africa home series, T20 World Cup or the Australia series, we have decided to rest a few players, who need urgent rest,” he said.
India had stunningly lost 1-2 to Bangladesh in the short series earlier this month.
The team comprises three specialist spinners in Harbhajan, Axar Patel and Karan Sharma, while the pace department will be spearheaded by Bhuvneshwar Kumar with Mohit, Sandeep Sharma and Stuart Binny for company.
“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 about Harbhajan, who returned to the Test side in the tour of Bangladesh.
“The selectors’ job is to pick the best possible combination. The rest is left to the team management. Once we select the team, it is left to the captain to make up the playing XI,” he added.
The batting will largely rest on Rahane, Vijay, Rayudu, Tiwary, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav.
“It is a good team and picking youngsters is the way forward,” BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur said.
Most of the senior players like regular ODI skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Test captain Virat Kohli, opener Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and off-spinner R. Ashwin, have been rested for the series.
On Rahane being handed the captaincy Patil said, “We are happy with the way his 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 we will keep backing him.”
India are scheduled to play three ODIs in Harare (July 10, 12 and 14) followed by a couple of Twenty20 Internationals (July 17 and 19).
India: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Murali Vijay, Ambati Rayudu, Manoj Tiwary, Kedar Jadhav, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Harbhajan Singh, Axar Patel, Karan Sharma, Dhawal Kulkarni, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma.