Rahane to lead India against Zimbabwe

Top guns rested; Pujara to skipper 'A' team

Rahane to lead India against Zimbabwe

Ajinkya Rahane will be leading a second-string India side to Zimbabwe after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) acceded to the request of top players to be rested.

The Senior Selection Committee, which met here on Monday, decided to rest MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Umesh Yadav for the series comprising three ODIs and two T20 Internationals, beginning July 10.

The 15-member squad will have three Karnataka players. Stuart Binny, Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey have made the cut for the Zimbabwe tour.

Fatigue was pointed out as one of the major reasons for the team’s embarrassing ODI series loss to Bangladesh and selectors took note of it.

“Until the players themselves request for a rest, we don't rest them," chairman of the selectors Sandeep Patil told reporters here after the meeting.

"We sent a full-strength side to Bangladesh, but this time the players communicated to us that they needed the rest.”

Yadav, however, has been included in the India ‘A’ squad. Team Director Ravi Shastri, too, will not be accompanying the team due to ‘prior engagements’. The BCCI advisory committee will meet again in July to discuss the appointment of a new coach.

All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja was absent from the mix and Patil tersely pointed out that those missing and not in the “rested” list meant they were dropped.

Uthappa, meanwhile, could be the top choice to don the gloves among Kedar Jadhav and Ambati Rayudu. 

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who was part of the team in the drawn one-off Test match against Bangladesh, is also making a comeback to the ODI squad. Harbhajan last played an ODI in 2011.

Harbhajan will have Axar Patel and leggie Karn Sharma for company in the spin department. Patil said they had also discussed Jammu & Kashmir off-spinner Parvez Rasool in the meeting but decided to go ahead with Patel.

The selectors insisted that youngsters were picked keeping in mind the future, especially the forthcoming 2016 T20 World Cup. “The Indian team did not do well in Bangladesh. But we have to move forward and considering the domestic cricket to be played, we have picked this side, looking at the 2016 T20 World Cup," Patil said.

Test opener Murali Vijay and Rahane will be expected to open the batting in the 15-man squad which also has Manoj Tiwary.

Among pacers, Dhawal Kulkarni, Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma were retained, with Punjab’s Sandeep Sharma getting his maiden call. Sandeep had impressive seasons in both domestic one-dayers and IPL where he was the second-highest wicket-taker for Kings XI Punjab this year.

Patil also backed Rahane who was at the end of Dhoni’s criticism in Bangladesh for his inability to rotate the strike on slow pitches."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. We will keep backing him and also judging him,” he said.

The selectors also named Cheteshwar Pujara the captain of the India ‘A’ squad which would be playing two four-day games against Australia ‘A’, both to be played at Chennai, from July 22-25, and July 29-August 1. It will also be Rahul Dravid's first series as coach of the India A side.

Squads: India: Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Murali Vijay, Ambati Rayudu, Manoj Tiwari, Kedar Jadhav, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Harbhajan Singh, Axar Patel, Karn Sharma, Dhawal Kulkarni, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma.

India ‘A’: Cheteshwar Pujara (captain), KL Rahul, Abhinav Mukund, Karun Nair, Shreyas Iyer, Naman Ojha, Vijay Shankar, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Shardul Thakur, Varun Aaron, Abhimanyu Mithun, Umesh Yadav, Shreyas Gopal, Baba Aparajith.

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