The Telegraph
Monday , January 7 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dhoni retained as captain

- Cheteshwar Pujara drafted in as virender Sehwag is axed

Calcutta: There were hints about Virender Sehwag’s expulsion from the team ever since he failed to deliver in the second one-dayer against Pakistan at the Eden, which India lost by a massive 85 runs to concede the series.

The selection committee sat in New Delhi on Sunday to finalise the squad for the first three ODIs against England, starting from Friday in Rajkot.

And expectedly, Sehwag’s name doesn’t feature on the 15-member list.

Instead, the selectors decided to include the in-form Cheteshwar Pujara, who got a maiden limited-overs call-up after yet another successful domestic season. Precisely, Pujara’s inclusion was the only change to the squad that lost 1-2 to Pakistan in the three-match ODI series.

Despite calls for fresh leadership, selectors have reposed faith on Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who remains captain of the side.

The team failed collectively, but Dhoni’s individual performance against Pakistan once again stood up as a guard against all the hassles.

No wonder Dhoni was India’s best batsman in the series as it was his knocks with the bat that enabled India whatever little fight they could put up.

However, if current form and performance had to be the criteria for selection rather than past records, Pujara was the automatic choice then.

Besides, his knock of 203 during a tight situation against Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy, too, seems to have helped Pujara make the cut. Having notched up as many as 761 runs in only nine Tests with three centuries, Pujara has also been a prolific limited overs scorer for India A and Saurashtra.

As for Sehwag, he had managed to score just 238 runs in his last 10 ODI appearances, averaging below 24.

Incidentally, Sehwag was dropped from the playing XI of the third and final one-dayer against Pakistan at the Kotla, which was as good a signal of his ouster from the upcoming series against England.

Chances of a comeback in the shorter format now gets increasingly difficult for Sehwag, considering the fact that he is already 34 years old and struggling with his reflexes, which becomes all the more clear especially with the incoming delivery.

If excluding Sehwag for the deserving Pujara was a correct move, retaining the non-performer in Rohit Sharma was certainly the surprise of the day.

Rohit has been in the news of late mainly for his string of failures in one series after another. Ever since he won the man of the series award against West Indies at home back in 2011, Rohit has simply been a disaster whenever he donned Team India colours.

However, it would have been interesting to see what decision the selectors took if Manoj Tiwary was fit.

Gautam Gambhir, who too isn’t amongst runs lately, has been retained along with Ajinkya Rahane.

On the other hand, the bowlers held on to their places after having successfully defended 167 at the Kotla on Sunday, which helped India avoiod a 0-3 whitewash.