Harbhajan dropped; Rahul Sharma included for England ODI series

Harbhajan Singh was dropped from the Indian team due to his poor form Getty Images

Chennai: Sep 29, 2011

Off-colour spinner Harbhajan Singh was on Wednesday dropped as the selectors opted to infuse young blood by naming leg-spinner Rahul Sharma and paceman Sreenath Aravind in India’s depleted 15-member squad for next month’s first two cricket one-dayers against England.

Gautam Gambhir, who missed the ODI series in England because of a head injury, returned to the team which will be without the services of as many as seven top players, including Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh because of injuries.

Handicapped by the injury-induced absence of the seniors, the national selectors chose a predominantly young bowling attack with Praveen Kumar being the spearhead.

Vidharba paceman Umesh Yadav and Jharkhand speedster Varun Aaron also figured in the team announced by new BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale after a marathon meeting of the selection committee here.

Harbhajan’s omission did not come as a surprsie as he has been struggling of late. He was disappointing during the Test series in England, where he took only two wickets in 69.4 overs at an average of 143.50 and economy-rate of 4.11.

He suffered a stomach injury during the second Test and was ruled out of the last two matches and the ODI series.

The team, to be captained by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, will have as many as five fast bowlers and three spinners in Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin and Sharma.

Parthiv Patel, who did reasonably well in the recent ODI series against England, has been retained along with upcoming batsman Ajinkya Rahane of Mumbai.

Aravind, the 27-year-old Karnataka fast bowler, was rewarded for his consistent performance in the domestic circuit and in the last edition of the Indian Premier League.

Aravind has taken 68 wickets from 20 first class matches with an average of 27.11 in his career so far with five for 49 being his best effort. In Twenty20 cricket, he has taken 37 wickets in 28 matches at an average of 18.72.

Twenty four-year-old Sharma, a leg break bowler who plays for Punjab, made an impression in the last IPL with his economical bowling and was similarly rewarded for his performace in the domestic arena.

The lanky spinner, who overcame a facial nerve dysfunction which effected his vision early in his career, has taken 16 wickets in nine first class matches. His Twenty20 record is better having scalped 29 wickets in 28 matches at an economy rate of 6.40.

The selectors opted to give Sharma an opportunity rather than go for the more experienced spinners such as, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla.

Jharkhand pacer Aaron, who was part of India’s ODI squad in England but did not get to play a single match, was retained in the squad. He is known for his speed and it remains to be seen whether he gets his opportunity now.

Yadav, who plays for Vidharba and is again a find from the IPL, has been included in the side ahead of Ashish Nehra and R P Singh.

In his short-little career so far, Yadav has played three ODIs for India and has taken just one wicket in the series against Zimbabwe last year.

Gambhir will either have Parthiv or Rahane as his opening partner while the middle-order will comprise of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dhoni and Jadeja, who is the lone all-rounder in the team.

Tendulkar, who is still recovering from a toe injury, and Yuvraj, who broke his finger during the tour of England, were not available for selection.

Sehwag (shoulder surgery), Zaheer (ankle and hamstring strain), Munaf (twisted foot), Ishant Sharma (ankle ligament), and Rohit Sharma (broken finger) were the others who were ruled out of the series because of injuries.

The first ODI of the five-match series will be played in Hyderabad on October 14,, while Delhi will host the second game on October 17. Mohali (Oct 20), Mumbai (Oct 23) and Kolkata (Oct 25) will stage the other three matches.

Kolkata will also conduct the lone Twenty20 match against England on October 29.

It will be India’s first ODI series at home since winning the coveted World Cup earlier this year. (PTI)

Squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (c&wk), Gautam Gambhir, Parthiv Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, R Vinay Kumar, Sreenath Aravind, Rahul Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Praveen Kumar.