An ‘Exit’ Short-Lived: Dhoni Back in Indian T20I Squad for NZ Tour
A little over a month after sitting out of India’s T20I squad for a three-match series in Australia, MS Dhoni is back in the Indian fold in the shortest format.
The former captain and veteran wicketkeeper-batsman has been reinstated to the Indian T20I team after being named in a 15-man squad for a three-match contest in New Zealand at the start of February.
The BCCI has also named a 16-man squad to compete in three ODIs in Australia and five ODIs in New Zealand prior to the T20I series, in which the most significant change is the ouster of Rishabh Pant.
Fit-again Hardik Pandya has made it to both the ODI and T20I teams for the upcoming limited overs legs of India’s tour of the Trans-Tasman.
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The BCCI selection committee’s decision to not take Dhoni for the T20Is in Australia in November had led many observers to think the last had been seen of the ex-captain in the crash-and-bang format, at least internationally speaking.
The T20I series to kick-start India’s tour Down Under, which finished level at 1-1, was seen as an audition of sorts for Pant and Dinesh Karthik, both of whom featured in all three matches.
While Karthik contributed in both completed games – very nearly pulling off a dramatic heist in the opener with a 13-ball 30, before staying unbeaten on 22 in a must-win chase in the third – Pant returned a meagre 20 runs from two innings, including a first-ball duck in the series finale.
The 21-year-old, who has also struggled with the bat in the ongoing Tests in Australia, now finds himself out of the ODI squad. The BCCI’s official release, however, states that Pant will play for India ‘A’ in a five-match one-day series at home against England Lions upon the completion of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
By back-tracking to Dhoni, the Indian think-tank may be reaffirming the thoughts of several pundits expressing concern over a lack of options to succeed the now 37-year-old. The once-feared finisher has had a fair share of criticism for his waning big-hitting abilities; Dhoni’s strike rate in 20 matches since giving up the limited overs captaincy at the start of 2017, at 143.67, is well above his T20I career strike rate of 127.09.
Selectorial Merry-Go-Round Continues
True to Indian limited overs squads selected over the past couple of seasons, there have been to-and-fros aplenty among the back-up options in either squad.
In the ODI setup, Pant is arguably the biggest loser – to be left out of what is the second-last set of assignments ahead of the 2019 World Cup cannot bode well for any player excluded. Joining him among the sidelined from India’s previous 50-over series, a home win over West Indies, is Umesh Yadav.
Mohammed Shami replaced Yadav for the ODIs in Australia and New Zealand, having earlier been dropped after featuring in the first two ODIs against West Indies.
Yadav loses his spot in the T20I team too, along with Washington Sundar and Shreyas Iyer.
Manish Pandey finds himself axed from both squads as well, despite having only warmed the benches for the length of the Australia T20Is as well as the West Indies ODIs.
Changes in India ODI Squad
In: Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami
Out: Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, Umesh Yadav
Changes in India T20I Squad
In: MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya
Out: Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Washington Sundar, Umesh Yadav
Full Squads: India in Aus & NZ
Full 16-man India squad for ODI series in Australia and New Zealand: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami.
Full 15-man India squad for T20I series in New Zealand: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed.