(The Times Of India)
After days of speculation, it finally emerged on Friday that MS Dhoni will opt out of the ODI tour to the Caribbean. The World Cup-winning skipper, who will get a much-need break, informed the selectors of his decision during the selection meeting here on Friday. Gautam Gambhir will lead a depleted squad in his absence.
Even before the IPL got underway, Dhoni had said that he would like to rest “at some point of time”. With the hectic IPL format leaving no time for a breather, Dhoni has given the ODI series against the West Indies a miss in order to be fresh for the Test matches and a long England tour that follows. “He said he needs a break and we want to get him for the Tests with his batteries recharged,” a selection committee source said.
In Dhoni’s absence, Gautam Gambhir will get his second opportunity to lead the side. The BCCI is planning to make him the long-term vice-captain and feel this series will be a good stage-rehearsal. With Virender Sehwag out with injury and Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan also being rested, the pressure will be on the Delhi left-hander to lead from the front in the five-match ODI series and a lone T20 international.
There weren’t too many surprises in the actual squad, with the selectors deciding to give more weightage to domestic performances than the IPL. That helped leg-spinner Amit Mishra clinch the third spinner’s berth in the squad ahead of Rahul Sharma. “Mishra is a proven customer. Let these guys play for a while longer, their chance will definitely come,” the source added.
The spin attack will be led by two offies, Harbhajan Singh and R Ashwin. In the absence of Zaheer and Ashish Nehra, the pace attack comprises of Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma, Vinay Kumar and Praveen Kumar.
The big gainer has been Subramanium Badrinath, who walks into the squad on the basis of a fantastic domestic season and a fine run in the IPL. In a rich vein of form, there was no way he could have been overlooked. “It’s a great opportunity for me to come back into the ODI squad after three years. I’m basically a top-order batsman and I love playing at No. 3 or No. 4. But I’m ready to play in any slot that my captain wants me to,” a happy Badrinath told TOI.
In Dhoni’s absence, Parthiv Patel walks in as the No. 1 wicketkeeper but the selectors threw in a surprise by selecting Bengal’s Wriddhiman Saha as the second man ahead of Ambati Rayudu, who has done a great job for Mumbai Indians and even earned Sachin Tendulkar’s praise. “Wicketkeeping is a specialist’s job. It’s a long tour and we wanted to have a specialist for back-up,” chairman of selectors Krishnamachari Srikkanth said.
Squad: Gautam Gambhir (C), Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, S Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Vinay Kumar, Yusuf Pathan, Amit Mishra, Wriddhiman Saha.