Chennai: Test specialist Rahul Dravid on Saturday earned a surprise recall to shore up India’s struggling batting line-up while an off-colour Harbhajan Singh was dropped from the 16-member squad for the Twenty20 and one-day cricket series against England beginning 31 August.
The 38-year-old Dravid, the lone batsman who has been consistent with two back-to-back centuries in the ongoing Test series, makes his way into the one-day fold after a gap of almost two years to provide stability to a brittle line-up struggling in the seaming English conditions.
Harbhajan, who has been ruled out of the Test series because of an abdominal strain and has been woefully out of form in recent times, was expectedly not considered for the ODIs along with another star injured player Yuvraj Singh, nursing a broken left index finger.
Karnataka paceman Vinay Kumar and wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel were recalled into the 16-member squad announced by the BCCI secretary N. Srinivasan after a meeting of the selection committee here.
Paceman S. Sreesanth, left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and all-rounder Yusuf Pathan also failed to find favour with the five-man selection panel.
Dravid’s inclusion is indicative of the youngsters’ poor performance so far on the tour where the likes of Suresh Raina have struggled against rising deliveries.
With many of the frontline batsmen also struggling for runs, the selectors opted to rely on Dravid for lending stability to the middle-order.
Dravid last played an ODI match against the West Indies during the 2009 Champions Trophy in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Harbhajan’s exclusion was very much on the cards after his indifferent performance in the last few series. In the two Test matches against England, which India lost, he managed to take just two wickets for 287 runs before being ruled out.
The off-spinner has been advised three weeks’ rest which means that he would have recovered for the ODIs. Yuvraj, who has also not been considered, was advised rest for four weeks.
Sachin Tendulkar, who has been selective about his one-day appearances in recent times, has been included in the team considering the importance of the series.
The squad, to be captained by Mahendra Singh Dhoni with Virender Sehwag as his deputy, has seven specialist batsmen, seven bowlers and two wicketkeepers with Parthiv Patel being the reserve gloveman.
Patel’s proven batting skills in one-dayers gave him the upperhand over Wridhhiman Saha, who is the reserve wicketkeeper in the Test squad.
Zaheer Khan will spearhead the pace attack which has Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma and Vinay Kumar, while leg-spinner Amit Mishra and R Ashwin are the two spinners.
India will play the lone Twenty20 match in Manchester on 31 August followed by five one-dayers at Chester-Le-Street (3 September), Southampton (6 September), London (9 September and 11 September) and Cardiff (16 September).
The team will play three practice matches against Sussex (25 August), Kent (26 August), Leicestershire (29 August) before the series gets underway.
• The Squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag (vice-captain), Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Suresh raina, Rohit Sharma, Zaheer Khan, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra, Parthiv Patel.