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Yuvi in T20 WC squad, Laxman retained for Tests

 MUMBAI, Aug 10 (PTI): Yuvraj Singh was today recalled into the Indian squad within months of recovering from a rare germ cell cancer when he was picked for next month’s World T20 championships in Sri Lanka as well as the preceding two-match T20 series against New Zealand at home.

Senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar returned for the two-match home Test rubber against New Zealand commencing at Hyderabad on August 23 after skipping the bilateral five-match limited oves series in Sri Lanka that concluded earlier this month.

The national selection panel with Krishnamachari Srikkanth at its helm, that is to be replaced at the Cricket Board’s next AGM in September, also decided not to take any tough decision by retaining the misfiring V V S Laxman in the Test squad.

There was a big question mark over the Hyderabad stylist’s future after a dismal run of scores in the last two four-Test rubber played and lost by India in England and Australia and Laxman was in woeful form.

The selectors also made Gautam Gambhir vice captain for the T20 World Championships as well as the two T20 Internationals after having made fellow-Delhi batsman Virat Kohli as Mahendra Singh’s deputy for the tour of Bangladesh held in March.

In another interesting pick, senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has also been recalled to the team after a gap of one year along with veteran seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji, who makes a comeback after three years.

Yuvraj’s selection was on the cards after he was declared fit by the physio and trainer at the National Cricket Academy where he had been camping for the past one month.

“Yuvraj has been declared fit, so he makes a comeback. And all of us know, if he gets going, he can singlehandedly win matches,” chairman of selectors Krishnamachari Srikkanth told reporters after the meeting.

Young batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has predictably got the nod as replacement for the retired Rahul Dravid in the longer version.

The two T20 Internationals against New Zealand, slated for the first week of September, will be a test for Yuvraj who underwent chemotherapy in the US earlier this year.

Ever since his diagnosis, the left-hander has remained out of action since the second Test match against West Indies played from November 14-17 in Kolkata.

The selection committee took around three and half hours to decide on the two squads – the bone of contention being the selection of Yuvraj and Harbhajan.

According to sources, Yuvraj’s selection wasn’t exactly unanimous as couple of selection committee members were apprehensive about picking him for the T20 World Cup starting September 18 as he has not played a single competitive match for the past nine months.

Pacer Ishant Sharma, who has recuperated from a successful ankle surgery, is also back in the 15-member squad along with Suresh Raina who will be the reserve middle-order batsman.

There were a lot of speculations in the past few days regarding Laxman’s future, especially as the first Test was being played at his hometown in Hyderabad.

However, the 37-year-old’s selection means that the talks of an impending retirement has been put to rest for the time being. But at the same time, the pressure to perform will be immense on the stylish Hyderabadi batsman as Raina will be itching to get a chance on the sub-continental shirtfronts.

The surprise pick certainly is leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, who last played for India in the 2011 World Cup and since then has been confined to the sidelines.

He didn’t set the domestic stage on fire having picked only 23 wickets in seven Ranji Trophy matches for UP last season. His poor strike rate of 72 plus (12 overs for a wicket) also raises questions about whether this performance warrants a place in the squad.

Chawla’s selection indicated the paucity of spin options as suitable replacement for Anil Kumble who had manfully led the Indian attack for nearly two decades before retiring in 2008.

Squad for T20 World Cup and T20s against New Zealand: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Gautam Gambhir (vice-captain), Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, Ashok Dinda.

Test squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane, Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, Suresh Raina.

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