India recalled fit-again opener Rohit Sharma and spin trump card Ravichandran Ashwin as the holders finally named their squad for next month’s Champions Trophy in England and Wales on Monday (8).
Unhappy with cricket’s new revenue model, which considerably slashes their share from global events in the 2015-23 cycle, India failed to submit a squad by an April 25 deadline, triggering panic among advertisers.
Several members of the Indian board (BCCI) favoured withdrawing from the tournament in protest but court-appointed administrators, who are currently supervising BCCI operations, rallied against such a drastic move.
The 15-member squad unveiled by chief selector MSK Prasad contained no real surprises.
Rohit returned from a thigh injury and the right-hander will be joined by southpaw Shikhar Dhawan, who owes his own comeback primarily to a shoulder injury for Lokesh Rahul.
The selectors were also probably influenced by the fact that Dhawan was adjudged man-of-the-tournament when India won the last edition of the eight-team event, also held in England and Wales, four years ago.
“Ajinkya Rahane would be the back-up opener,” Prasad told reporters.
Off-spinner Ashwin returned to the side after skipping the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) with a hernia and Prasad said it was more tactical than anything else.
“It was not really a serious injury. The franchise was magnanimous enough to accept our request to rest him,” Prasad explained.
“He represented India in the last international game… It’s not like others who have undergone surgeries and are getting rehabilitated.”
The selectors considered left-arm unorthodox bowler Kuldeep Yadav before deciding a spin attack comprising Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, aided by part-timer Yuvraj Singh, should be sufficient.
Kuldeep, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur were all put on a standby list.
India‘s pace attack was bolstered by the return of Mohammed Shami, whose recurring foot injuries kept him out of the one-day side since March 2015.
Former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni retained his place in the squad amid whispers that the wicketkeeper-batsman’s ‘finisher’ reputation was on the wane.
“We only talk about his batting form, he’s an invaluable asset to this team,” Prasad said.
“When it comes to crunch situation, his input… I think he has got one of the best brains, and is the best person to guide (skipper) Virat (Kohli).
“In the last 10-12 years that MSD (Dhoni) played for his country, he never had a bad day with the gloves. We always treat him more like a batsman, not many appreciate the phenomenal work he has done behind the wickets.
“According to me, he’s still the best wicketkeeper in the world,” said Prasad, a former Indiastumper.
The top eight sides in the world rankings compete in the Champions Trophy.
India begin their Group B campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan at Birmingham on June 4.