With a busy second half of the year upcoming, India will take a young squad to Zimbabwe for a limited-overs tour next month, with the big names held back for the trip to West Indies and a Test series in July.
With all of its main players currently in action in the soon-to-be-concluded Indian Premier League, India has not been in action since exiting the World Twenty20 to the West Indies at the semifinal stage two months ago. And the selection committee has ensured that India’s established stars will get a break before heading to the Caribbean.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who retired from Test cricket at the end of 2014, will captain a 16-man squad picked to play both three one-day internationals and three T20 internationals in Zimbabwe. And as an illustration of the lack of experience elsewhere, Dhoni has more international appearances than the other 15 players combined. Only pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah remains from the squad that competed in the World T20, when India fell short on home soil.
It means the man named as player of the tournament, Virat Kohli, will be absent, along with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin. Veteran bowler Ashish Nehra, meanwhile, was never in contention after suffering a knee injury in the IPL that will now require surgery.
Instead, there are five players in the squad – batsmen Faiz Fazal, Mandeep Singh and Karun Nahir, as well as spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Jayant Yadav – who have yet to be capped at international level.
Speaking after the squad was announced, selection committee chairman Sandeep Patil explained that Dhoni was keen to develop some young talent on the tour.
"Zimbabwe tour is looked as specially for the youngsters to try and test them," he said, reports The Times of India. "The young team which has been sent should give their best and perform. Nothing better opportunity than this. They will get ample experience from this. Dhoni himself wanted to tour Zimbabwe and help the youngsters."
Rahul is the only man from the Zimbabwe limited-overs squad to also feature in a much more experienced group that will play four Tests in the West Indies in July and August over a schedule that has yet to be finalized. Kohli will captain the squad, with Ajinkya Rahane named as his deputy, while Dhawan, Ashwin, Murali Vijay and Ravindra Jadeja are also among those selected.
There is just one uncapped player named, pace bowler Shardul Thakur. The 24-year-old Mumbai player has taken 89 wickets over the past two Ranji Trophy seasons. Joining him in the bowling attack will be Mohammad Shami, who has not played international cricket since the 2015 50-over World Cup. After undergoing knee surgery following the tournament, Shami then picked up a hamstring injury that forced him to withdraw from the tour of Australia at the start of the year and the Asia Cup. While he was named in the squad for the World T20, he featured only in two warm-up matches.
India’s last outings in Test cricket came in November and December last year, when beating South Africa 3-0 on home soil. Only two players have been left out from that squad for the tour of West Indies, all-rounder Gurkeerat Singh Mann and pace bowler Varun Aaron.
India squad for limited-overs Zimbabwe series: MS Dhoni (Captain, Wicketkeeper), Lokesh Rahul, Faiz Fazal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Ambati Rayudu, Rishi Dhawan, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Barinder Sran, Dhawal Kulkarni, Mandeep Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Jaydev Unadkat, Yuzvendra Chahal
India tour of Zimbabwe schedule
June 11: First ODI
June 13: Second ODI
June 15: Third ODI
June 18: First T20I
June 20: Second T20I
June 22: Third T20I
India squad for West Indies Test series: Virat Kohli (Captain), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Vice-captain), Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (Wicketkeeper), R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Stuart Binny.