Rahul Sharma, Aravind rewarded for consistent domestic showing
Young spinner Rahul Sharma and pacer Sreenath Aravind are the two new faces in India's depleted 15-member squad for the first two one-dayers in next month's One-Day International series against England.
While ace off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was dropped because of poor form, Gautam Gambhir, who missed the ODI series on the recent tour of England because of concussion, returned to the squad, which will be without the services of a host of seniors, including Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh, all out due to injuries.
Vidharba pacer Umesh Yadav and Jharkhand speedster Varun Aaron also figure in the team, announced by the new Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary, Sanjay Jagdale, after a marathon meeting of the selection committee in Chennai, on Thursday.
The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led squad has a predominantly young bowling attack, with Praveen Kumar the spearhead.
The selectors picked as many as five fast bowlers and three spinners in Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin and Sharma.Parthiv Patel, who did reasonably well in the recent ODI series against England, was retained along with up-and-coming batsman Ajinkya Rahane of Mumbai.
Image: Rahul Sharma
Aravind has 68 wickets from 28 first class matches
Aravind, the 27-year-old Karnataka fast bowler, was rewarded for consistent performances in the domestic circuit and the last edition of the Indian Premier League.
He has taken 68 wickets from 20 first class matches with an average of 27.11 in his career so far with five for 49 being his best effort.
In Twenty20 cricket, he has 37 wickets from 28 matches, at an average of 18.72.
Twenty-four-year-old Sharma, a leg break bowler who plays for Punjab, made an impression in the last IPL with his economical bowling and was similarly rewarded for his performance in the domestic arena.
The lanky spinner, who overcame a facial nerve dysfunction that affected his vision early in his career, has taken 16 wickets in nine first class matches. His Twenty20 record is better having scalped 29 wickets in 28 matches at an economy rate of 6.40.
The selectors opted to give Sharma an opportunity rather than go for more experienced spinners like Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla.
Image: Sreenath Aravind
Aaron retained in the squad
Jharkhand pacer Aaron, who was part of India's ODI squad in England but did not get to play a single match, was retained in the squad. He is known for his speed and it remains to be seen whether he gets an opportunity now.
Yadav, who plays for Vidharba and was a find from the IPL, was included in the side ahead of Ashish Nehra and R P Singh.
In his short-little career thus far, Yadav played three ODIs for India and took just one wicket, in the series against Zimbabwe last year.
Image: Varun Aaron
Rahane likely to open with Gambhir
Gambhir will either have Parthiv or Rahane as his opening partner while the middle-order will comprise Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dhoni and Jadeja, who is the lone all-rounder in the team.
Tendulkar, who is still recovering from a toe injury, and Yuvraj, who broke his finger during the tour of England, were not available for selection.
Sehwag (shoulder surgery), Zaheer (ankle and hamstring strain), Munaf (twisted foot), Ishant Sharma (ankle ligament), and Rohit Sharma (broken finger) are the others who were ruled out of the series because of injuries.
The first ODI in the five-match series will be played in Hyderabad on October 14, while Delhi will host the second on October 17.
Mohali (Oct 20), Mumbai (Oct 23) and Kolkata (Oct 25) will stage the other three matches.
Kolkata will conduct the lone Twenty20 match against England on October 29.
The team: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Parthiv Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, R Vinay Kumar, Sreenath Aravind, Rahul Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Praveen Kumar.
Image: Ajinkya Rahane