Rohit, Shami return in India's Champions Trophy squad

Rohit Sharma and Mohammad Shami feature among the 15-member Indian squad for the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.

India will take the field against Pakistan in a league match at Edgbaston, Birmingham on June 4.    -  K. R. DEEPAK

Rohit Sharma and Mohammad Shami feature among the 15-member Indian squad for the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. India will begin its title defence with a match against archrival Pakistan in Birmingham on June 4.

Indian team for CT: Opting for tried and tested names

Rohit's last played an ODI in 2016 against New Zealand after which a thigh injury prevented him from playing for over four months.

Shami hasn't played an ODI since the 2015 World Cup semifinal against Australia. He will spearhead a pace attack that has Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.

Fielding questions from the media here on Monday, MSK Prasad, the chairman of the selection committee, emphasised that various aspects were taken into consideration, and that experience was paramount.

Shikhar Dhawan, despite a poor showing in three-match ODI series against England, was retained. Dhawan, with 363 runs, was the leading run-scorer of the 2013 Champions Trophy. He played an important role in clinching the trophy for India.

The last edition's leading wicket-taker Ravindra Jadeja also feature in the squad along with Ravichandran Ashwin to form the spin line-up. After playing a key role in India's success in an exhaustive home Test season, the latter skipped the Indian Premier League due to sports hernia.

The chairman expressed his gratitude to the franchise (Rising Pune Supergiant) of Ravichandran Ashwin for giving him the much needed rest during the IPL, to recover and be ready for the challenge ahead.

Ravindra Jadeja was considered “extremely fit’’ and the selectors were confident that he would “cope with the demands’’ despite his IPL commitments.

Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya, who starred in India's ODI series win against England, have been retained as well. Against England, Jadhav showcased his finishing prowess with the bat. Jadhav, along with ODI veterans Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, will strengthen the middle order. 

“We feel that it is a balanced, experienced and from our view, the best team,” said Prasad.

The 22-year-old Kuldeep Yadav, the chinaman bowler who has caught everyone’s imagination, came for praise from Prasad, but clarified that he was viewed as a “surprise package” and came “very close” to selection.

However, with Yuvraj Singh and Kedar Jadhav open to bowling spin when required, it was felt that another spinner could not be fitted into the team without compromising its balance.

In fact, Prasad had no hesitation in reeling off the names of Rishabh Pant, Shardul Thakur, Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik, apart from Kuldeep Yadav, as the players who were discussed at length and would be kept as reserves. They would be training at the NCA and be ready.

“We are impressed with the way Rishabh Pant is playing. He is our solution for the future. We will groom and back him,” he said.

When queried about Sanju Samson and Basil Thampi, the chairman was prompt in saying that they were being watched as “good prospects”.

Prasad was profuse in his praise for IPL, saying it was the “best in the world, as a premier domestic event”.

“It is a wonderful platform for the youngsters to showcase their talent. We bring them into the radar and groom them,” he said, talking about the need to prepare those shining in instant cricket, for the longer format.

M.S. Dhoni was hailed for his wicket-keeping. “We all know that Dhoni is the best wicket-keeper in the world. There may be a question about his batting. We feel that he is indispensable and the best person to guide Virat. In the last so many years that he has played, MSD has never had a bad day as far as his glove is concerned. His phenomenal wicket-keeping goes unnoticed,” Prasad remarked.

Squad: Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wicket-keeper), Yuvraj Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Manish Pandey.

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