Bengaluru, December 24: MS Dhoni returned to India's T20I scheme after missing the last six international T20s but dashing wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant has been axed from the ODI outfit as the selectors on Monday (December 24) announced the squads for the ODI and T20I tours to Australia and New Zealand.
All-rounders Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav, who were sidelined because of injuries sustained during the Asia Cup in Dubai, have also made the cut. India will play three ODIs against Australia followed by five ODIs and three T20Is against New Zealand.
The squads have retained a look of familiarity since the management wants to give as much opportunity as possible for the core team for the ICC World Cup 2019 in June in England. The convenor of the selection committee, Amitabh Chaudhary, refused to comment on the matter but a source privy to the development justified the 37-year-old Dhoni's selection.
"Since there are only eight ODIs (three against Australia and five against New Zealand), selectors want to give MS as much game time as possible (before the World Cup). Three T20Is means 11 international matches through the next one month," a BCCI official told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
Pant, on the other hand, will come back to play five ODIs against England Lions in India from January 23.
The 16-member squad for the twin ODI series against Australia (starting January 12) and New Zealand (starting January 23) is pretty much the core team for the World Cup in England that starts May 30.
The three T20 Internationals against the Kiwis are lined up from February 6. The selection committee's decision to bring back Dhoni is set to raise a few eyebrows as the logic given before the Australia T20s was that he was not going to be in the scheme of things for the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020. The former captain is already retired from the Test format.
"That's the reason Rishabh is a part of T20 squad. Also now with Kedar (Jadhav) and Hardik (Pandya) are fit and Kedar being an off-break bowler, it will be difficult for the team management to fit in Rishabh in playing XI in the World Cup unless someone gets injured. Already Dinesh Karthik and KL Rahul are there in case MS gets injured," he added.
Interestingly, skipper Virat Kohli, when asked about Dhoni's T20 omission in November, had stated that the veteran had offered to give up the format so that Pant could be groomed for the job.
"...he (Dhoni) just feels that in the T20 format, someone like Rishabh can get more chances," Kohli had said last month.
From the last T20 squad, Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey have been dropped as Hardik expectedly made a comeback and Kedar was also included to give him more game time. The squad is also an indicator that till the World Cup, all doors are closed for Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and premier spinner R Ashwin.
The other senior bowler Ravindra Jadeja, however after a good show in the Asia Cup, is in the mix with first choice wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed has impressed the team management enough and if all goes well, will surely board the UK-bound flight. India are currently engaged in a Test series against Australia and will play three ODIs against them starting in Sydney.
This will be followed by a limited-overs engagement with New Zealand, beginning with five ODIs from January 23.
India's squad for ODI series against Australia and New Zealand: Virat Kohli (Capt), Rohit Sharma (VC), 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.
India's squad for T20I series against New Zealand: Virat Kohli(Capt), Rohit Sharma (vc), 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.