Mumbai: Opener Virender Sehwag and pace spearhead Zaheer Khan on Wednesday returned to the Indian cricket team after recovering from injuries even as senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar decided to skip the limited overs tour of Sri Lanka starting July 21.
Sehwag, Zaheer, along with young pacer Umesh Yadav, had sat out of the Asia Cup in Bangladesh in March due to fitness issues. While Sehwag was nursing back spasms and a shoulder injury, Zaheer and Umesh too had niggles.
Tendulkar, who has played only two ODI series since the 2011 World Cup and is now a Rajya Sabha MP, made himself unavailable for selection for the Lanka tour which will have five ODIs and a Twenty20 International.
Young Mumbai batsman Ajinkya Rahane has replaced Tendulkar in the side. The other change from the Asia Cup side is the inclusion of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha in place of out-of-form all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.
The committee, which picked the squad in a meeting here, also decided to include Umesh at the expense of Praveen Kumar.
“We have the best available team. Sachin is not available. I think it is a very good side which has very strong batting line-up and good bowlers and we are confident that it will do well in Sri Lanka,” chairman of selection committee Krishnamachari Srikkanth told reporters after announcing the squad.
There was again no place for feisty off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who endured indifferent form during the IPL and has now signed up with English county side Essex, as the selectors continued to ignore him while retaining Rahul Sahrma in the side. The team will thus have three spinners on low-bouncing and spinning tracks in Sri Lanka.
The team will also have seven specialist batsmen, four seamers and a wicketkeeper in captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The team has endured poor results since the second half of last year, having been whitewashed in the Test series in England and Australia before failing to make the finals of the Asia Cup.
“It is a long season ahead and I think we will come back to winning ways. Sachin wants to extend his career. He must be aiming at England and Australia (series later this year). He is spacing it out very well,” said Srikkanth.
“I don’t really want to dwell on whys, they are difficult. We should look at what has been selected,” he said.
The rest of the squad remains the same with the selectors retaining Virat Kohli as vice-captain, a position that the Delhi youngster took from opener Gautam Gambhir during the Asia Cup.
“Virat Kohli has been appointed vice-captain, the idea is continuity. Virat got brilliant hundreds after becoming vice-captain which shows that he likes responsibility,” explained Srikkanth.
Aggressive but inconsistent all-rounder Yusuf Pathan was ignored after failing to make an impact in the IPL. His brother Irfan too missed out.
In Sri Lanka, India will play a five-match ODI series between July 21 and August 4 followed by a one-off Twenty20 International on August 7.
A little over a month separates the Sri Lanka tour and the Twenty20 World Cup, which will be played in the same country.
The Squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virat Kohli (vice-capt), Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Ashok Dinda, Suresh Raina, Vinay Kumar, Rohit Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Sharma.