Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni stuck to his words in the aftermath of the whitewash in the T20I series in Australia, when he said the squad for the ICC World T20 would be quite identical to the team that bounced back after the ODI series defeat Down Under. Unsurprsingly enough, Delhi left-arm spinner Pawan Negi and India's pace spearhead in the World Cup last year Mohammad Shami were the two inclusions to the squad as the likes of Manish Pandey, Bhuvneshwar Kumar missed out on making the cut.
Cricket expert Ayaz Memon, in conversation with Firstpost's Vinayakk Mohanarangan, analysed India's squad for the World T20, before looking ahead to the IPL player auction set to take place on Saturday, 6 February.
(You can watch the full video above)
"We had a foretaste of that when Dhoni, after the third T20I in Australia, when he said he didn't expect too many changes. What he meant was, he did not want too many changes. So the selectors got the message and perhaps agreed as well, because you can't dispute a 3-0 win against Australia in Australia," Ayaz Memon told Firstpost in an exclusive chat.
The team, which sported a settled look during the whitewash against the Aussies, offered very little room for maneuver, he added.
The squad on paper does indeed look very balanced, with the right mix of youth and experience. The selectors have clearly gone with the horses for courses policy and have put the immediate needs of doing well in the World T20 over long-term planning, as the selection of Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra and Yuvraj Singh confirms. The form that the top-order has been in, over the tour of Australia also augurs well for Dhoni's troops, but on the flipside, the bench strength when it comes to batting is flimsy at best and does not take into account potential loss of form or injuries for the core batting lineup.
"So, the issue here is, whether this is Dhoni's team or the selectors' team? It is pretty much the case that Dhoni's thoughts have been agreed upon by the selectors," he added.
Speaking about the man who missed out, Karnataka's Manish Pandey, Ayaz sympathised with the luck of the flamboyant stroke-maker.
"I would keep [Ajinkya] Rahane in the team, but I feel very bad for Manish Pandey. Look, he's not 19-20 anymore - he's 26. He's been doing really well in the domestic circuit, in the IPL. He has been on the fringes of the Indian team squad for a while and when he got his chance in Australia he played that match-winning knock in Sydney."
"I would have liked to see Manish in the squad as an extra batsman, even if it is just in the 15-man team and not the playing XI, and not the extra bowlers we have got now. The assumption we have made is that the batsman will continue their form from Australia for the next two months, therefore, a batsman instead of a bowler would have been worthwhile," Ayaz said.
Ayaz also had words of praise for Ashish Nehra who has made a comeback into the national squad after 2011 World Cup to play in another ICC event, a testament to his hard work and form in the IPL.
In the second part of the chat, Ayaz looks forward to the IPL auction where he said all eyes will be on Yuvraj as he could potentially become the most expensive player for the third auction running. He also spoke about some of the lesser known Indian names like Rishabh Pant, Avesh Patel who could find themselves in the limelight.
Stay with Firstpost Sports for more coverage and analysis on cricket with Ayaz Memon. India will next face Sri Lanka at home in a three-match T20 series, starting 9 February. Follow @FirstpostSports on Twitter for more details about Game Plan.
Report: Pacer Shami returns to India squad for World T20
New Delhi: Pacer Mohammed Shami has been included in India's squad for this month's Asia Cup and the World T20 commencing next month, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced here on Friday.
Shami hasn't played for the country since the 2015 World Cup due to a knee injury. The 25-year-old Bengal right-armer was named in the limited-overs squads for the tour of Australia, but was withdrawn due to a hamstring injury.
"Mohammed Shami has recovered and is fit. He has started bowling," selection committee chairman Sandeep Patil said at the press conference.
Patil added that the Asia Cup will give them a good indication of Shami's match fitness ahead of the crucial World T20.
Uncapped left-arm spinner Pawan Negi was also picked. He played for the now suspended Chennai Super Kings franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and represents Delhi in the domestic circuit.
In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the 23-year-old took six wickets at 33.66 (economy 8.71) and scored 173 runs at 86.50 with a strike-rate of 173 for Delhi.
The same team would take on Sri Lanka in a three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka starting next week. India will take on hosts Bangladesh in their first match of the Asia Cup T20 tournament on February 24 in Mirpur.
It will be followed by matches against traditional rivals Pakistan (February 27), Sri Lanka (March 1), and one more league match against one of Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Oman who have to quality for the main stage.
Young batsman Manish Pandey, who impressed with a match-winning century in the third T20 against Australia recently, wasn't named in the squad.
Patil termed the Karnataka right-hander as a future prospect.
"Regarding Manish Pandey, it is difficult to say whether a player is dropped or rested, it's a tough call to make because Manish did exceptionally well in Australia. He is our future prospect," he said.
Pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma were also left out.
Batsman Ajinkya Rahane, injured during the One-Day series against Australia, was selected. The selectors also expectedly included star batsman Virat Kohli after resting him for the three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka.
The selectors have incorporated the experienced trio of Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra to add depth to the team.
"We experimented during Australia and discussed which players would be good for replacements. For the T20 format, where you won't get too much time, we discussed a few names. In the shorter format, horses for courses has worked," Patil said.
"When selectors pick a team, we always give importance to domestic performance. It is not that we are only looking at seniors, we have looked at the performance, fitness and record of the domestic players as well. We have taken into account all the performances of not just 15-16 guys but all the domestic players and then picked these 15," he added.
World T20 hosts India are in Group B alongside New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia and a yet-to-be-decided qualifier in the premier tournament. Their World T20 campaign begins on March 15 against New Zealand.
They recently defeated Australia 3-0 in a three-match series Down Under last month to become the No.1 T20 team in the world.
India were the winners of the inaugural edition of the World T20 in 2007 and have been termed as the favourites.
The India T20 squad for World T20 and Asia Cup:
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain & wicketkeeper), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Mohammed Shami, Pawan Negi.