The 34-year-old Ashwin last played white-ball cricket for India in 2017
Iconic former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was brought in as mentor to the squad by the BCCI, a move that took everyone by surprise
New Delhi: The BCCI on Wednesday pulled off the biggest surprise of the season by convincing a reticent Mahendra Singh Dhoni to become the national team's mentor for the T20 World Cup while bringing back senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin from his white-ball wilderness.
India captain Virat Kohli might be on an all-time high as he chases history to become the first to win Test series in England and Australia but it can be said with a degree of certainty that his style and philosophy of leadership doesn't have too many takers in the current India camp.
His inability to win an ICC trophy seems to be a major factor in the inclusion of India's greatest captain in the set-up, a year after he announced retirement.
"Former India Captain M S Dhoni to mentor the team for the T20 World Cup," announced BCCI secretary Jay Shah in a press conference to unveil the 15-member squad for the event scheduled to start October 17 in the UAE and Oman.
"(I) spoke to him (MSD) in Dubai. He agreed to be mentor for WT20 only and I discussed with my colleagues and all are on same page. I spoke to captain (Virat Kohli) and vice captain (Rohit Sharma) and everyone agreed," Shah added.
India will open their campaign against Pakistan on October 24.
Being the only Indian captain to win all three ICC white ball trophies, the 40-year-old astute leader knows how to pull off big games and with only six weeks left in head coach Ravi Shastri's tenure, it is understood that Dhoni's suggestions will have a great bearing on how the head coach and captain select their playing XI in the UAE.
Not to forget that Dhoni is also Rishabh Pant's mentor, someone the young man from Rourkee trusts implicitly.
In a dressing room where mindset can be cluttered, Dhoni's presence is definitely set to help Pant play his game without any disturbance.
Ashwin's inclusion -- the left-field selection
During the past four Tests against England, despite India's steady performance, the 34-year-old Ashwin's exclusion did stick out like a sore thumb with Kohli unable to give any logical explanation.
It has been reliably learnt that it's primarily the skipper and not the coaching staff who is against fielding Ashwin in the playing XI during the current series.
In this scenario and for a captain, who has not had any faith in the senior spinner's white-ball capabilities for the past four years, it would have been really surprising that the he would have wanted the straight-talking Tamil Nadu tweaker in his limited overs set-up.
"Ashwin is an asset. He performed well in the IPL and we needed a player of his experience. We need an off-spinner with Washington (Sundar) injured. Ashwin is the only specialist off-spinner in the squad," chairman of selectors Chetan Sharma answered a PTI query during the press meet.
Now this is an open secret in Indian cricket that former pacer Chetan hasn't been on the same page with Kohli since the time he has taken over. Their difference of opinion on the selection of Abhimanyu Easwaran in the Test squad for England made headlines not too long back.
However, Chetan is believed to have had support from BCCI brass as well as at least one influential senior player, who is convinced that Ashwin's inclusion was a must taking the Dubai ground into consideration.
"Dubai ground is huge and Ashwin is one bowler, who has variations to trouble a lot of teams in the Powerplay overs. The skipper might not have been convinced for so many years, there are other key players also who are definitely convinced that Ashwin was needed.
"It was a collective decision and skipper had to fall in line," a senior BCCI source privy to immediate developments told PTI.
Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy reap IPL dividends
Yuzvendra Chahal came into the scene permanently after India's horrible Champions Trophy final against Pakistan after which wrist spinners were in vogue but after four years, life has come full circle for him with his slow through the air approach becoming his undoing.
"We have picked Rahul Chahar over Yuzi as we wanted someone who bowls fast and gets pace off the pitch. He also gets the ball to grip through the surface," Chetan said when asked about junior Chahar's inclusion.
The chairman said that any positive suggestions are welcome when asked if inputs from Rahul Dravid, who was India's coach in Sri Lanka in July, have been taken for selection of Chahar, who was very impressive in all the games.
On Varun Chakravarthy, a pure product of IPL, Chetan said that he is still a surprise element for most teams across the world.
"He is the mystery bowler and teams are not able to read him. He has bowled well in IPL and he will be a surprise package," he explained.
No Dhawan or Prithvi even in 18
Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan, Delhi Capitals' crack openers, are set to miss out on this edition and it was on the cards since KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma are a settled opening pair.
Even skipper Kohli has opened in IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore but Chetan clarified that they are not looking at the skipper as an opener.
"For us, there are three openers -- KL, Rohit and Ishan Kshan. Ishan also gives us the option of playing him in the middle-order as a floater and is also the second wicket-keeper. So we have kept things flexible," he said.
With Suryakumar Yadav's smashing entry into the international scene and Shreyas Iyer's untimely injury, it was always a case of touch and go between the two Mumbaikars.
"Shreyas hasn't played any cricket but we have kept him in the stand-bys."
Shardul will remain in stand by as Hardik set to bowl full quota of overs
The chairman said that Hardik Pandya has informed that he will bowl his "full quota of overs" and that effectively meant that Shadul Thakur, after his heroics in red ball cricket, will have to be content being in reserves.
Similarly Deepak Chahar, despite his lion-hearted show in Sri Lanka, is in the reserves because Bhuvneshwar Kumar is way more experienced and the inclusion of Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah meant that there could only be place for either of the two.
In all it's a team that's not just has Kohli's stamp over it but also has some influence from Rohit Sharma, and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly on it. And when the ball starts rolling, there would be a man with serene smile, who would still be the undeclared captain.
An interesting World T20 is on cards which will also decide Kohli's future as white ball leader irrespective of probable Test series win against England.