The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Monday announced a 16-man squad for the three-match ODI series against Australia, followed by the limited-overs tour to New Zealand in early 2019.
MS Dhoni returned to the national side after sitting out of two T20I series – home series against Windies in November and three-match series in Australia ahead of the ongoing Test series against Australia.
Dhoni's return comes as a surprise since he was dropped from the T20Is against Australia only last month. The reason cited by the selectors at that time was that they were looking for a second wicketkeeper in the format.
However, justifying the 37-year-old's selection, a BCCI official, on conditions of anonymity, told PTI, "Since there are only eight ODIs (three against Australia and five against New Zealand), selectors want to give MS as much game time as possible (before the World Cup). Three T20Is means 11 international matches through the next one month."
All-rounder Hardik Pandya too returned to the ODI and the T20 squads. Pandya was out of action after he suffered a back injury against Pakistan during the Asia Cup in September. Pandya missed the entire home series against the Windies and only joined the national side after the second Test in Australia.
Kedar Jadhav, who featured in the final two ODIs against the Windies, has also been drafted in the squad, with left-arm spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja retaining his place after consistent performances in the limited overs cricket.
Young wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant lost his ODI spot to veteran Dhoni but the southpaw has been named in the T20I squad against the Kiwis. Manish Pandey has been omitted from the ODI squads, while Krunal Pandya, who made his T20 debut against Australia last month will be a part of the T20 squad that will take on Kane Williamson's New Zealand in February.
The Indian team management will have one eye on the ICC World Cup to be held in England later in 2019 as Virat Kohli and his troops enter the final leg of preparations for the quadrennial tournament.
Kohli-led India are scheduled to play three ODIs against Australia - 12 (Sydney), 15 (Adelaide) and 18 (Melbourne) January.
India will then fly across the Tasman sea for a five-match ODI contest against New Zealand - 23, 26, 28 and 31 January and 3 February, followed by a T20I series against the Black Caps on 6, 8 and 10 February.
India’s squad for ODI series against Australia and New Zealand: Virat Kohli(Captain), Rohit Sharma (vice captain), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami
India’s squad for T20I series against New Zealand: Virat Kohli(Captain), Rohit Sharma (vice captain), KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (WK), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed
With inputs from PTI