Shardul in side for Windies, Dhoni to lead young team in Zimbabwe

Shardul in side for Windies, Dhoni to lead young team in Zimbabwe

Shardul in side for Windies, Dhoni to lead young team in Zimbabwe

Uncapped pacer Shardul Thakur was the surprise pick in India's Test squad announced today for the tour of West Indies, while a second-string team led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni was chosen by the selectors for the limited-overs series in Zimbabwe.

The 24-year-old right-arm medium pacer was included in a largely untouched 17-member squad with the selectors reposing their faith in the line-up that had played the last Test series against South Africa at home.

Thakur was rewarded for his consistent performance in the domestic circuit where he took 41 wickets in 11 matches for Mumbai at an average of 24.51. His best figures in an innings were six for 107.

Varun Aaron, who was part of the team during the series against South Africa, was dropped and a fit-again Mohammed Shami returned to the squad which will have Ajinkya Rahane as its new vice-captain.

All-rounder Stuart Binny retained his place in the team announced by new BCCI Secretary Ajay Shirke following a meeting of the selection committee here.

The team, to be led by Virat Kohli, also had no place for veterans such as Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh despite their decent performances in the ongoing Indian Premier League. The tour of West Indies comprises four Tests in mid-July but the exact dates for the series are yet to be formalised.

Kohli, nursing a hand injury, has been left out of the limited-overs series against Zimbabwe, scheduled from June 11 to 20, along with Murali Vijay and Ashish Nehra, who is due to undergo a surgery.

"No one has been rested. No one wrote to BCCI or called us (to say) they were not available or they should be rested. It was the decision of the selection committee to pick a young side for Zimbabwe and another side for West Indies," selection panel head Sandeep Patil told reporters.

There was a heated exchange between a scribe and Shirke when the question was posed on how Kohli could play in IPL with an injury but has been advised rest for Zimbabwe.

"The report which we have from Indian team physio Patrick Farhart says he (Kohli) needs rest after IPL. I am talking about the report, we go by the report," said Patil.

Shirke intervened to say, "Let's not look at things that way. It's my request. He's one of our top performing players. There's a medical advice even in the middle of a tournament. Let's not put things upside down that he's available for IPL and not for country."

The selectors have opted to pick a completely new-look team for the tour of Zimbabwe with Vidharbha left-handed opener Faiz Fazal, off-spinner Jayant Yadav, Punjab middle-order batsman Mandeep Singh and IPL star Yuzvendra Chahal being the uncapped players in the side.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni will captain the squad as he will be largely out of action for the rest of the year owing to a lack of limited-overs assignments for India.

The team for West Indies expectedly has five specialist pace bowlers -- Ishant Sharma, Bhuneshwar Kumar, Shami, Thakur and Umesh Yadav -- while Binny is also capable of chipping in.

The squad has three spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja, while Wriddhimaan Saha has been picked as the frontline wicketkeeper. Batsman K L Rahul can also keep wickets if required.

Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan are the two openers with the middle-order comprising Rahul, Kohli, Pujara, Rahane and Rohit Sharma.

Patil said Shreyas Iyer, who was the top-scorer in the Ranji season with a total of of 1321 runs for Mumbai, was also discussed by the panel.

"We discussed not only Shreyas but other players also. I would not like to comment or name the other players. We do consider the current form and performances of all those who have participated in BCCI's domestic tournaments as well as the IPL. We also have players prior to Shreyas and Shreyas' name was discussed but unfortunately only 15 or 16 can go on a tour," Patil said.

"If you remember last year we picked Karn Sharma not only on sheer IPL performance. We did watch him bowl in domestic cricket also. This year we wanted variation in our bowling department that is why Yuzvendra Chahal found a place.

"IPL as a tournament is important, it is a BCCI tournament and we know that all international players participate in the IPL, which makes it very competitive cricket. So it is important for the selectors to look into the performances of the IPL," he added.

Patil said the Zimbabwe tour is a good opportunity for the selectors to try out different bowlers.

"Mandeep has been a part of India A for the past four years, unfortunately he got injured in between and so he missed out on that part, but otherwise he was always been on our radar," he said.


"We were looking for variation in our bowling department and this Zimbabwe tour gives us an opportunity to try out new faces, new choices and new talent.

On Rahul as standby wicketkeeper, Patil said he has been told to focus on his work behind the stumps too.

"Rahul kept wickets on the Sri Lanka tour, not as a regular wicketkeeper, and did very well. Now he is keeping wickets in the IPL. All the selectors have had a word with him that he should give enough importance and concentrate on his keeping along with his batting," said Patil.

The former batsman also hailed the decision of Dhoni, who will be largely out of action due to India's busy Test schedule this year, to tour Zimbabwe and guide the youngsters.

"Dhoni has retired from the longer format and we selectors felt that this is the best opportunity for youngsters to have someone like Dhoni, who has ample experience.

"Dhoni himself was very keen to tour with the youngsters so I think it is a very good sign and a good help for the youngsters, who are going to be part of the Zimbabwe tour," said the selection panel chief.

The Squads:

Squad for West Indies: Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane (v-c), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, K L Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhimaan Saha, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur, Stuart Binny.

Squad for Zimbabe: M S Dhoni (c), K L Rahul, Maneesh Pandey, Karun Nair, Ambati Rayudu, Rishi Dhawan, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jaspreet Bumrah, Barinder Sran, Mandeep Singh, Jaidev Unadkat, Yuzvendra Chahal. 

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