Mumbai: In a decision that is likely to polarize opinions, India's selectors have included Sachin Tendulkar for the Asia Cup that kicks off on March 12 in Dhaka. An out-of-form Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav have been rested from a 14-man team that does not look significantly different to the one that is struggling to qualify for the CB Series finals in Australia.
In one of the longest selection meetings in recent memory – it spanned nearly three hours – the selectors, who met at the BCCI headquarters today, also decided to recall Ashok Dinda, the Bengal fast bowler, and allrounder Yusuf Pathan. MS Dhoni has played non-stop cricket since the 2011 World Cup and looked jaded during the ongoing CB Series, but will captain the team which includes the struggling Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. Virat Kohli, whose unbeaten 133 helped delivered India an improbable bonus-point win over Sri Lanka on Tuesday, has been named vice-captain.
Tendulkar – who did not play a single ODI from the World Cup final to the start of the CB Series this month – has been included despite managing just 143 runs in seven ODIs in Australia with a best of 48. He has been stuck on 99 international centuries since March 12, 2011 and it appears the selectors have given him the chance to reach the unprecedented landmark. Following the end of the Asia Cup on March 22, India are not scheduled to play international cricket until the end of the year.
Sehwag, 33, has been rested after scoring 65 runs from five innings at an average of 13 in the CB Series. Most worrying was his inability to provide starts; the longest Sehwag batted was the first ball of the tenth over, and each of his dismissals owed to Sehwag's poor judgment rather than good deliveries.
Zaheer has been rested after a long tour of Australia, in which he played all four Test matches but missed four ODIs. His place has been taken by Dinda, the second highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy this season and leading bowler in the Duleep Trophy. Dinda has played five ODIs and three Twenty20s for India, but last appeared in June 2010.
Yusuf's only game for India since a disappointing one-day series in the West Indies was a one-off Twenty20 international against England last October, but he marked his return to competitive cricket with a 78-ball 114 to power Baroda to a 52-run win over Saurashtra in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He has been rewarded with a recall.
Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar and Irfan Pathan have kept their places, while Jadeja has retained his allrounder's slot despite returns of 101 runs at 16.83 and three wickets at 109 apiece in the CB Series. Raina too has held onto his spot despite a tally of 182 runs from eight matches in the CB Series. Rohit (79 runs in five matches) was also persisted with.
India's first match of the Asia Cup is on March 13 against Sri Lanka. The other participating teams are Pakistan and hosts Bangladesh. The Asia Cup runs from March 12 to 22, with the final to be played in Dhaka.
India squad: MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Manoj Tiwary, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Rahul Sharma, Yusuf Pathan. Irfan Pathan, Ashok Dinda.