Rohit Sharma 'not fit', K.L. Rahul to lead India in ODI series against South Africa

K.L. Rahul will lead India in the the ODI series against South Africa. With Rohit Sharma unavailable, the selectors have decided to hand over the responsibility to Rahul.

Team India head-coach Rahul Dravid in conversation with K.L. Rahul.   -  PTI

K.L. Rahul will lead India in the ODI series against South Africa, which begins on January 19. With regular white ball captain Rohit Sharma 'not fit', the national selection committee, led by Chetan Sharma, has decided to hand over the responsibility to K.L. Rahul.

"We are looking to groom KL Rahul. He is a player for all three formats. He has proved his leadership qualities. KL is the best one who can handle the side," Sharma said, making it clear that the selectors did not want to take a chance with Rohit, who is yet to attain full fitness.

"Rohit is not fit, he is in rehab. We never wanted to take chance with him if he is not 100 per cent fit," Sharma said.

While Virat Kohli will be available for the series, the selectors also named the seasoned Shikhar Dhawan in the squad. Jasprit Bumrah will be the vice-captain for the three-match ODI series. Young guns Ruturaj Gaikwad and Venkatesh Iyer earned call-ups.

Dhawan’s last international assignment was in July when he led the second-string limited-overs side for a T20I and ODI series in Sri Lanka. Most of the senior players were engaged in a five-match Test series in England simultaneously. Dhawan had a mixed outing, amassing 128 runs – including an unbeaten 86 – in the three ODIs. But managed just 86 in the three T20Is. 

Despite scoring 207 in eight innings during the second leg of the IPL for Delhi Capitals, Dhawan was not picked for the T20 World Cup and the T20I series against New Zealand, the selectors insisting that he was “rested”.

Earlier, there were speculations that Kohli wanted to take a break from the ODI series to be with the family. However, before leaving for South Africa, India's red ball captain had rubbished such speculations.

Rohit, who was promoted as India’s ODI captain, had to miss out on the Test series against South Africa due to a hamstring injury. While Priyank Panchal replaced him, Rohit left no stone unturned to be fit ahead of the ODI series. The captain also underwent a rehab programme at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, but the selectors did not want to rush things.

"We thought that Rohit should do rehab and work on his fitness. There is so much cricket and no player wants to be injured. So, we thought that with the T20 World Cup nearing, we should ensure that Rohit is fully fit. We had a good chat with Rohit," Sharma said.

The chairman of selectors also made it clear that at the moment, the selection committee is only focusing on the T20 World Cup, to be held in Australia later in the year. "We, the five selectors are going World Cup to World Cup. We definitely are preparing for the 2023 World Cup, but our first aim is the T20 World Cup. We are not thinking beyond that. We have no right to assume who will be fit or not. No one wants to be unfit. We are grooming KL Rahul and we also have Bumrah. We want them to learn and that will be good for Indian cricket," Sharma said.

The Squad

KL Rahul (Capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Ruturaj Gaekwad, Virat Kohli, Surya Kumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Prasidh Krishna, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj.

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