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    Sehwag out, Pujara in for three Eng ODIs

    New Delhi: Virender Sehwag, battling poor form in international cricket, has been dropped from the Indian one-day squad for the first three ODIs of the five-match series against England starting in Rajkot on January 11. He has been replaced by Cheteshwar Pujara in the only change made to the squad that was picked for the Pakistan series, which ended with India winning the dead rubber in New Delhi on Sunday.

    There had been much speculation that Sehwag, 34, would face the axe when the selection committee, headed by Sandeep Patil, met on Sunday to pick the 15 for the ODI leg of England’s tour. Sehwag managed just one fifty in his previous 11 ODI innings dating back to his record-setting 219 against West Indies in December 2011, with scores of 31, 4, 34, 3, 15, 96, 30, 5, 0, 20 and 10 for a total of 248 runs at an average of 22.55. This marks the first time the veteran opener has been axed from India’s 50-over squad since 2007. Sehwag met with two of India’s selection panel members, the North Zone selector Vikram Rathour and East Zone selector Saba Karim, at the Feroz Shah Kotla yesterday and it is believed he has been told to go back to domestic cricket sort out his batting.

    Gautam Gambhir has escaped the axe despite averaging 36 over his last ten matches, largely due to scores of 100, 102, 88 and 65 dating back to the Asia Cup in March 2012. The team for the five ODIs contains just two openers in Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane, meaning the pair will feature at the top at least initially in the series.

    There were no other changes to the squad. Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed and Ashok Dinda retained their places as the four fast bowlers, while R Ashwin and Amit Mishra remained the specialist spinners. Rohit Sharma struggling for consistency in his recent limited-overs opportunities, has been retained. Dinesh Karthik was called up as cover for MS Dhoni after the Indian captain pulled up sore before the third ODI, and has been released.

    India squad for first three ODIs: MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Gautam Gambir, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Shami Ahmed