Mohammed Shami last played ODI cricket in an attempt to win an ICC Trophy and now he returns with the same goal ahead of him.
The 26-year old was India’s best bowler in the 2015 World Cup but since then chronic leg injuries had put a halt to his 50-over career. Fit again, having played two Vijay Hazare Trophy matches for Bengal and five IPL games for Delhi Daredevils, he was among five fast bowlers picked to defend India’s Champions Trophy title in England.
A similarly important player, Rohit Sharma reclaimed his spot as first-choice opener. He had spent five months nursing a thigh injury, which had “scared him” until he had met with doctors and received clarification. He came back to competitive cricket in March and has played all 11 matches for Mumbai Indians in the IPL.
The national selectors, who met in Delhi on Monday, were content with two spinners in the 15-man squad. R Ashwin, who is currently recovering from a sports hernia, and Ravindra Jadeja can perhaps expect part-time assistance from Yuvraj Singh, who kept his spot after his ODI career was given a re-start in the series against England in January.
India have made it a point, under new coach Anil Kumble, to test their injured players in domestic cricket before picking them for internationals. But it is understood that Ashwin did not have to go through those rigours because he was resting as opposed to injured. He had bowled 738.2 overs in 13 Tests and the BCCI had asked his IPL franchise Rising Pune Supergiant to give him some time off.
MS Dhoni was the only wicketkeeper in the squad. MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, rated him as a key batsman in crunch situations and said he could not remember even a single day in the last 10 to 12 years when Dhoni was bad behind the stumps.
Still, Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik were placed on standby along with batsman Suresh Raina, left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav and fast bowler Shardul Thakur. These five players will train at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and the BCCI will proceed with their visa applications to the UK in case quick replacements are needed later. All the players were chosen because of their form in domestic cricket, and not just in the IPL.
KL Rahul, who had grown into one of India’s most valuable players across formats last year, was not among the touring party. He had hurt his shoulder during the Test series against Australia and had conceded that recovering in time for the Champions Trophy was unlikely. In his absence, the selectors have gone with Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane. The seam-bowling allrounder’s spot went to Hardik Pandya, while Kedar Jadhav, who had a breakout series as finisher against England, will lend support down the order on his second tour abroad.
India begin their tournament against Pakistan on June 4 at Edgbaston, then play Sri Lanka on June 8 and South Africa on June 11.