The mercurial Yuvraj Singh is back in the limited-over scheme of things for India. The explosive batsman has been included in the 15-man squad for the Twenty20 International and the first three matches in the seven-match ODI series against Australia at home.
India plays the T20 game against the Aussies at Rajkot on October 10. And the ODI series begins in Pune on October 13.
But the selectors have ignored the comeback bids of the two senior cricketers from Delhi, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Despite glimpses of form, the two haven’t done enough.
The 31-year-old Yuvraj Singh’s rousing form in the matches against West Indies ‘A’ and his improved fitness levels appear to have convinced the selection panel, headed by Sandeep Patil, that met here on Monday. The southpaw’s ability was never in question.
In 282 ODIs, Yuvraj, often donning the role of a match-winner, has notched up 8,211 runs at 36.98 with 13 centuries and 50 half-centuries (strike rate 87.64). His left-arm spin has been effective too, claiming 109 wickets at 37.95.
Yuvraj’s last ODI was against England at Dharamsala in January this year.
If we take the ICC Champions Trophy, the last major ODI competition that India figured in, the selectors have made four changes.
Yuvraj comes in for M. Vijay, who the selectors believe is better suited for Test cricket. Dinesh Karthik makes way for Ambati Rayudu, paceman Mohammed Shami comes in for the injured Irfan Pathan and left-arm seamer Jaidev Unadkat replaces Umesh Yadav.
According to sources, the selectors are keen to monitor the work-load of Yadav, who may have plenty to do in the Tests this season. Yadav, bothered by injuries in the past, is a strike bowler; a rare pace commodity for India in Tests.
While the name of the hard-hitting pace-bowling utility player Abhishek Nayar came up for discussion to replace the injured Irfan, Shami, a consistent specialist paceman in this form of the game, won the day.
However, Karthik’s omission is debatable. The wicketkeeper-batsman did have his moments in the Champions Trophy where he made an unbeaten 51 against the West Indies at the Oval. Then, Karthik came up with an innings of 69, in a crisis situation for India in the away series against Zimbabwe.
But then, the selectors appear to have punished Karthik for his failure to build on several starts.
This said, Rayudu is a batsman with potential; he produced a responsible unbeaten 63 on his ODI debut in Harare this year. It would, however, be unwise on the part of the selectors to thrust him as the reserve ’keeper if the need arises. Keeping wickets is a specialists’ job.
The squad: M.S. Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra, Ambati Rayudu, Mohammed Shami, Jaydev Unadkat.