Home Sports Rohit out, Chawla in: No other surprises in World Cup squad

Rohit out, Chawla in: No other surprises in World Cup squad

By Anand Philar, IANS,

Chennai : The national cricket selectors, who met here Monday, gave a new tweak in picking the 15-member India squad for the World Cup next month by including leg-spinner Piyush Chawla while omitting specialist batsman Rohit Sharma.

While rest of the squad announced by selection committee chairman Krishnamachari Srikkanth was as per expectations, Sharma’s exclusion came as a surprise and it was obvious that the selectors plumped their faith in India’s traditional strength, spin. Off-spinners Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin expectedly took their slots, with leg-spinner Chawla taking the spot of a third frontline spinner in the squad which also has part-time spinners Yuvraj Singh, all-rounder Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.

India open the World Cup February 19 against Bangladesh, their only away league match, in Mirpur, before taking on England (Feb 27, Kolkata), Ireland (March 6, Bangalore), the Netherlands (March 9, Delhi), South Africa (March 12, Nagpur) and the West Indies (March 20, Chennai).

Speaking to a horde of jostling mediapersons in the portico of a five-star hotel here and amidst a cacophony of voices, so typical of selection committee “press conferences”, Srikkanth said: “This is the best possible combination that we have picked keeping in mind the pitch and playing conditions.

“We had extensive discussions with the two selectors (Yashpal Sharma and Raja Venkat) who are in South Africa while finalizing the team. I feel that spinners will play a major role in the World Cup.”

He brushed aside questions on fitness of four key players – Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Praveen Kumar – all of whom are nursing injuries, saying these were not major concerns.

“Every team has injury concerns. So, let us think positive rather than talk about injuries. This team has been performing well in the past couple of seasons and hopefully, India will win the World Cup,” shouted Srikkanth unable to contain his irritation before abruptly walking away.

“The team has good balance,” said Srikkanth, pointing to the seven specialist batsmen, a wicketkeeper and seven bowlers, including four seamers and three spinners.

Sharma’s inclusion in the ongoing ODI series in South Africa was thought to be a strong indicator of the possibility of him making the World Cup squad, but he never quite utilized the opportunities.

With a tally of only 20 runs in two matches so far and just one half-century in 13 innings following an unbeaten 101 against Sri Lanka in the tri-series in Zimbabwe last summer, the 23-year old has done little to enhance his credentials as one of the most talented batsmen in the country.

Like Rohit Sharma, four others who are part of the current ODI squad – seamers S. Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma, opening batsman Murali Vijay and Parthiv Patel (replacement for the injured Tendulkar) – also did not make the cut for the World Cup.

On the other hand, 22-year old Chawla, now in South Africa and set for his World Cup debut, last played an ODI in July 2008 and since then he has been unable to break into the playing eleven.

Overall, there are seven survivors (Dhoni, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Munaf, Yuvraj) from the wreck of the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, where India were knocked out in the very first round after losses to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, while left-arm seamer Nehra, a member of the 2003 Cup squad, stages a return.

The squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Virender Sehwag (vice captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Ravichandran Ashwin, Piyush Chawla.