BCCI appoints Dhoni as team mentor for T20 World Cup; Ashwin included in squad

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Off-spinner R. Ashwin, who has been forced to warm the bench in the ongoing Test series in England, has been recalled for the T20 World Cup to be played in the United Arab Emirates and Oman from October 17.

In yet another surprise, M.S. Dhoni, India’s last ICC tournament-winning captain, has been roped in as the team mentor for the marquee event.

The national selection panel met on Wednesday evening in a virtual interaction, with India captain Virat Kohli in attendance, to finalise the squad. Ashwin will return to wearing blue after a four-year hiatus.

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Chetan Sharma, the chief selector who addressed the media for the first time since his appointment last December, said Ashwin’s consistent outings in the IPL, along with Washington Sundar’s injury, won him the nod.

“He has been performing well in the IPL. And an off-spinner will always be handy in UAE in a world tournament. Since Washington (Sundar) was unavailable, we decided to go with Ashwin,” Sharma said.

Interestingly, Ashwin was dropped from the white-ball squads in 2017, with the team management and the previous selection panel believing that wrist-spinners were the match-winners in shorter formats.

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The champion spinner will have rookies Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Chahar for company in the spin department along with the seasoned Axar Patel and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.

Rahul, the younger of the Chahar cousins, was picked ahead of Yuzvendra Chahal, who has been India’s leading spinner in limited-overs cricket since the conclusion of the 2017 Champions Trophy.

Chahal will not be the only one feeling hard done by. Veteran opener Shikhar Dhawan, who was the captain for India’s tour to Sri Lanka in July, has not found a place in the squad, with the selectors opting for Ishan Kishan as a left-handed batsman-cum-keeper option.

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“Shikhar is a very important player for us. I can’t disclose the discussion we had but he is in the loop. We thought the need of the hour was to look at others and rest him,” Sharma said.

According to Sharma, the selection committee has included K.L. Rahul primarily as Rohit Sharma’s opening partner and “floater” Ishan, “who can bat in the middle and keep wickets if required”, as the back-up opener.

Interestingly, after opening the innings with Rohit in the T20I series-decider against England in March, captain Kohli had indicated that the partnership would continue. The selection committee has a different perspective, however, although Sharma left the choice to the team management.

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“If Virat bats at No. 3, the team can bat around him. Still, if the management feels the need for him to open later on, it’s their decision. For now, we have selected Rohit, Rahul and Ishan as openers,” Sharma said.

With Sharma confident that Hardik Pandya would be able to “bowl his full quota in every match”, Shardul Thakur was pushed from the main squad to the three stand-bys, along with Shreyas Iyer and Deepak Chahar.

Squad:

Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice captain), KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami.

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Standby players: Shreyas Iyer, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar.

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